LAHORE, Jan 27: Over 400 activists of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal were arrested here and elsewhere in Punjab after they clashed with police during their protest against a planned marathon in Lahore on Sunday.
Clashes in the city resulted in injuries to five students and seven police personnel, including an SP. Ten public transport buses were damaged allegedly by the protesters.
According to sources, nearly 215 people were rounded up in Lahore, over 70 in Multan, 35 in Sargodha and as many in Faisalabad and the remaining in other towns of the province. The MMA claimed that over 500 of its activists had been picked up only in Lahore.
“We have rounded up around 100 activists of the MMA,” operations incharge of Lahore police Aamir Zulfikar Khan said, adding that the workers had disturbed law and order. “They attacked police and damaged public property. They also violated the government’s ban on holding rallies.”
He said cases would be registered against the activists for damaging public property and creating a law and order situation.
Police officials and witnesses said around 100 MMA activists had gathered outside the Masjid-i-Shuhada on The Mall after Friday prayers and chanted slogans against the government and the marathon.
Police said initially they asked them to disperse and detained them when they refused. At least 30 of the activists were bundled into police vans and driven to nearby lock-ups.
Some 500 students of the Government Islamia College, Civil Lines, gathered on Lower Mall and tried to join their fellow MMA activists protesting on The Mall. They were holding placards and banners, denouncing the government’s plan to hold the marathon.
Police intercepted them near Nasir Bagh. The activists allegedly pelted them with stones. They were baton-charged and pushed back to their college.
The students allegedly ransacked seven buses before running towards their hostels. Five students and seven police personnel, including SP Omar Farooq, suffered injuries and were taken to the Mayo Hospital. Sub-inspector Nazir Ahmad was stated to be in critical condition in the hospital.
A police contingent is reported to have stormed the college and its hostels. They beat up students and picked up over 100. Three pistols, a rifle, a carbine and dozens of bullets were seized from the hostels and a large contingent was deployed there.
About two hours later, another group of students blocked a road near Muslim Town. They allegedly attacked another bus and set it on fire. A police team rushed there, but no arrest was made.
Late in the evening a bus was attacked and damaged at the Yateem Khana chowk. At the Wahdat Road, some MMA activists damaged a bus after opening fire on the vehicle and bursting its tyres. No casualty was reported.
Liaquat Bloch of the MMA condemned the arrests and “torture on peaceful workers”.
He said that holding a peaceful protest against wrong policies of the government was a constitutional and democratic right of the people.
He termed the marathon an agenda being promoted by outsiders. “The only purpose of the race is to promote obscenity,” he said, adding that his party would continue its protests.
In the evening, Hafiz Salman Butt of the MMA alleged at a press conference that the operations chief of the city police had threatened him on phone for opposing the race. “Such threats can’t stop us.”
Demanding an immediate release of MMA workers he said that over 500 activists had been arrested only in Lahore. He warned that the MMA would also hold protest on the route of the race on Sunday.
Meanwhile, a Punjab police source said that police chiefs in the province had been directed to round up all important activists of the MMA and to ensure they would not turn up at the marathon venue.