MUZAFFARABAD: Police in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) have detained 54 individuals under different sections of the Penal Code and an anti-terrorism law for ransacking an international fast-food restaurant franchise in the southern lakeside city of Mirpur, an official said on Saturday.

On Friday night, a mob of around 250-300 people, chanting anti-Israel and pro-Palestine slogans, marched from a mosque to a street dotted with outlets of various Pakistani brands and some multinational fast-food franchises.

The food outlet that was targeted is owned by a local PML-N leader and former AJK minister Chaudhry Muhammad Saeed.

The administration, upon learning of the protest, had deployed around two dozen policemen to guard the area. However, outnumbered by the demonstrators, the police were unable to prevent them from pelting stones at the restaurant building, damaging its outer structure, SSP Mirpur Kamran Ali told Dawn by telephone.

Some of the demonstrators also forced their way inside the building, where they ransacked part of it with batons and set it on fire.

However, the fire did not cause major harm as it was contained by police personnel within a short while, according to the SSP.

He said stone pelting left Mirpur’s additional deputy commissioner, a DSP, and eight cops wounded.

“To be very honest, the demonstration appeared to be driven less by sympathy for the oppressed Pal­estinian people and more by some other agenda, which may include political and business rivalries,” SSP Ali said.

“Investigations will bring everything to light,” he added.

The SSP said that FIR had been lodged by the police themselves, wherein 54 had been nominated, adding that 250-300 unknown suspects had been booked under eight sections of Azad Penal Code and Section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

“We have formed five teams to hunt down the suspects, and so far, 54 of them have been apprehended,” he said.

“Come what may, no­­body will be spared.”

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2024

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