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Security lifted after TMQ enters no-go area

January 15, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Jan 15: Security provided to the Tehrik-i-Minjhajul Quran (TMQ) sit-in was on Tuesday withdrawn after the participants violated the code of conduct signed between their local leaders and the city administration.

Policemen had been deployed at the venue’s outer cordon – from Fazal Haq Road to Luqman Hakeem Road and the service road of F-7 - and the middle cordon on the service roads of Jinnah Avenue.

Besides, TMQ volunteers were also performing security duty at the venue. However, with the withdrawal of the police they also disappeared.

According to the code of conduct agreed between the capital administration and the local representatives of the TQM before the long march reached the city, the participants would not break or cross the outer limit of the venue at Jinnah Avenue in front of Saudi Pak Tower.

The capital administration had made it clear to the TMQ that the security arrangements would be withdrawn if the code of conduct was violated.

It may be noted that Interior Minister Rehman Malik had claimed on a number of occasions that there was a threat of attack on the rally.

The police and district administration officials said the security was lifted as the participants violated the code of conduct by moving to D-Chowk. But the organisers of the long march said it was the responsibility of the government to provide security cover to the participants.

Shahzad Qadir, the in-charge of the TMQ volunteers providing security to the participants, admitted that their volunteers had been removed.

Due to the number of participants, it was difficult to maintain the security arrangements. However, he added, the volunteers still provided security cover to Dr Qadri.

Early on Tuesday, Dr Tahirul Qadri during his address to the participants in front of Saudi Pak Tower asked the government to shift his stage to D-Chowk within five minutes. After the announcement, a police contingent deployed at the rear of the stage was removed. Soon, police personnel were also called back from the outer and middle cordons.

With the announcement of Dr Qadri, the charged crowd marched towards the containers put on the road and removed them to make their way towards D-Chowk.

At one stage when the people were moving towards Express Chowk, police and paramilitary troops deployed at Parade Ground and Express Chowk lined up to intercept them. Besides, police personnel who had left the venue after completing their 12-hour-long duty were asked to come back.

The capital administration and police officials approached the organisers of the long march and asked them not to violate the code of conduct. However, when they disregarded the request, the officials approached the interior minister.

Later, the participants were not stopped from proceeding to D-Chowk and police deployed at Express Chowk were also removed.

The participants of the march used a crane, which they had brought with them, to remove the blockades and containers put at Jinnah Avenue up to the Express Chowk. After clearing all the hurdles, the participants reached D-Chowk shortly before Fajr prayer.

A scuffle broke out between a contingent of police commandos and the security volunteers of TMQ in which the latter beat up and injured the personnel.

According to the security volunteers of the TMQ, the incident occurred when the police personnel approached the vehicle of Dr Qadri to arrest him. The panicked policemen resorted to firing in the air and one of the bullets also hit Dr Qadri’s vehicle.

In response, women participants of the march pelted the police with stones and thrashed them. The backup contingent of the commandos fired tear gas shells and resorted to baton charge to rescue their trapped colleagues. Sources in the police said the attempt to arrest Dr Qadri was made on the direction from senior officials.

On the other hand, the police claimed that they were responsible for providing box security to Dr Qadri. When the police reached near his vehicle, an unidentified man opened fire which led to the melee.

During this, a police vehicle was damaged. The vehicle worth Rs10 million has the facility to jam satellite signals and remote control devices.

The interior minister while talking to media alleged that Dr Qadri had violated the agreed code of conduct by marching towards the D-Chowk.

“I have 10,000 policemen and could have taken action but then I realised what would happen to the innocent people if the police retaliated,” he added. The minister ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.

It is the responsibility of the government to provide security to Dr Qadri. Two contingents of police, each comprising 50 personnel, are deployed with him. They have been directed to provide security cover to him even if the organisers tried to stop the police, he added.

However, no policeman was found providing security to Dr Qadir till late evening.

The TMQ later lodged a complaint with the Kohsar police against the interior minister and senior police officers along with over 16 policemen for registration of a criminal case against them on the charges of attempted murder, kidnapping and terrorism. The police, however, received the complaint and entered it into its daily diary.

Abrar Raza, the president of TMQ Islamabad, told Dawn that the complaint was lodged by one of their injured activists, Mohammad Hanif.

“Tomorrow, we will submit an application to the district and sessions court seeking directions for registration of the case,” added the TMQ leader.

A senior police officer said a case was likely to be registered against the security volunteers and activists of the TMQ for attacking and injuring the policemen and damaging the official vehicle. He said directions from the high-level were awaited in this regard.