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Clashes between protesters, police paralyse Lahore

Published Mar 10, 2013 10:05pm

Lahore-christian-protest-AFP-670
A Pakistani Christian demonstrator throws a tear gas shell back towards riot police during a protest against the attack on the homes of members of the Christian community by Muslim demonstrators in Lahore on March 10, 2013. — Photo by AFP

Badami Bagh arson attack: Clashes between protesters, police paralyse Lahore

LAHORE: As the Christian community took to streets across Punjab and cities and towns of other provinces on Sunday to register their protest against Saturday’s Badami Bagh arson attacks, Lahore presented the look of a battlefield with angry protesters blocking roads, causing suspension of metro bus operations and clashing with police.

The police baton-charged the protesters and arrested a number of them for damaging public property.

The protests erupted in various parts of the provincial capital in the morning after a large number of Christians appeared on different roads. On the Ferozepur Road residents of Yuhanabad who were carrying placards and banners blocked the traffic.

They were chanting slogans against the Punjab government.

The situation took an ugly turn when police tried to disperse them when they stormed the central track of the metro service, halting its operation. Police also pelted the protesters with stones.

The charged protesters damaged a metro bus and ransacked parts of the Yuhanabad bus station. Police fired tear gas and fired into the air to disperse them but without success.

The situation forced the Punjab Metro Bus Authority to suspend its entire operations. The daylong protests, mainly at Yuhanabad, left the traffic on both sides of Ferozepur Road out of gear.

“We have no way but to protest in the present scenario because we feel insecure after the burning of our homes in Joseph Colony,” Johnson, one of the protesters, said.

Replying to a question, he blamed the police for using traditional tactics to deal with protests which led to the damage to the bus and the station. “Had the police avoided using tear gas and firing into the air the protesters would have remained peaceful.”

Another protester, Kamal Maseeh, also accused police of provoking the protesters.

A spokesman of the Lahore DIG (Operations) said the officials were forced to take action after the mob damaged the public property.

“What should police do when protesters start taking the law into their own hands?”

The protesters also removed posters and banners of various PML-N leaders displayed at the bus station and along the road.

A government team led by local MPA Zaeem Qadri rushed to the place to hold talks with Christian leaders but returned after reportedly having been criticised severely by the protesters.

Police managed to disperse the protesters in the evening.

Another procession taken out by hundreds of Christians from Shah Jamal locality blocked another stretch of Ferozepur Road.

Traffic police diverted the traffic towards Canal Road.

Police succeeded in diverting the protesters towards Wahdat Road where they dispersed.

Near the press club, local Christian leaders led a demonstration under aegis of the Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan.

The protesters chanted slogans against the government for its failure to protect Christians and other minorities.

Pastor Javaid Anwar, Peter Gull, Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra and other leaders said the atrocities committed against Christians in Lahore had proved the Punjab government’s inability to protect the minorities.

They said the minorities had been left at the mercy of religious extremists who tortured them from time to time. They said the Christians wouldn’t end their protests in Lahore and other parts of the country till concrete assurances were given by the rulers about protecting the lives and property of the minorities.

They also rejected the chief minister’s announcement about compensation to be given to affected families and a judicial investigation into the incident.

Similar rallies were held in other cities and towns of Punjab by Christians and members of the civil society. The protesters blocked busy thoroughfares but remained peaceful.