The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) called off talks with the government Monday after the party’s anti-rigging protest in Faisalabad took a violent turn following the killing of a party worker.
The incident sparked violent countrywide demonstrations by the party which shut down Faisalabad and jammed major arteries of the metropolitans.
Faisalabad looked like a war zone yesterday as violent clashes erupted between supporters of the PTI and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as the city readied to observe the shut down on the call of PTI chief Imran Khan.
The clashes between the workers of opposing parties were recorded at city’s Ghanta Ghar, Novelty Chowk and Chenab Chowk as baton-carrying activists scuffled and pelted stones, eggs and tomatoes at each other.
PTI WORKER KILLED:
During the clashes, a PTI worker identified as Haq Nawaz was killed in a shooting incident at the Novelty Bridge. He was shifted to Allied Hospital where doctors pronounced him dead.
Following the killing, charged-up PTI workers besieged the residence of former provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah along with the dead body of Haq Nawaz and pelted stones at his house.
More than a dozen people, including two policemen, were injured as the police resorted to baton-charge and teargas shelling around Sanaullah’s residence.
Soon enough, PML-N activists withdrew from the roads and the main arteries were overtaken by the PTI workers who burnt tyres and PML-N banners on the roads.
According to reports, eight markets around the Ghanta Ghar were open in the morning and traffic was on roads but as the demonstrations and clashes continued, all the bazaars were shut.
In the meanwhile, PTI chief Imran Khan along with Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Sheikh Rashid and other leaders reached the Faisalabad Airport. As his motorcade was moving towards Novelty Bridge, stones were thrown from a rooftop which did not hit the vehicle but some workers were injured.
Following violent scenes in Faisalabad, PTI workers came out in large numbers in different cities, including Rawalpindi-Islamabad, Lahore, Multan, Hyderabad and Karachi.
A protest was held by the PTI in Lahore, tyres were burnt and attempts were made to set a bus on fire at GPO Chowk. PTI workers also held protests at Liberty Market roundabout, Akbar Chowk and Lalik Chowk. The protests caused massive traffic gridlocks on all major arteries of the provincial capital.
A similar situation was witnessed in Multan, where PTI workers came out to protest in the city’s Nawa Sheher Chowk.
The protesters were also seen out on the streets in Rahim Yar Khan, burning tyres and chanting slogans against the government while GTS Chowk in Gujrat also witnessed a demonstration.
Moreover in Islamabad, PTI workers protested the death of their party worker at Expressway and at Aabpara Chowk. The protesters blocked the Expressway causing traffic jams in the twin cities from Airport Chowk to Faizabad and on the IJP Road. They also blocked the Murree Road and long queues of vehicles were seen on the main higway till late at night.
Furthermore, supporters of PTI and PML-N clashed with each other in Hyderabad, hurling stones at each other. PTI workers were heading towards Dayal Das Club in Hyderabad when the clash broke out.
Meanwhile in Karachi, the PTI activists staged a protest outside the Karachi Press Club and Shahrah-e-Faisal, causing huge traffic jams. Similar protests were also reported in Sargodha and Mianwali.
The PTI has announced a countrywide day of mourning to protest the killing of its supporter while the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) also announced to join the day of mourning. Pakistan Sunni Tehreek has also announced a three-day mourning in this regard.
STATE MACHINERY IN ACTION:
Following the clashes, the police lodged an FIR [First Information Report] of the case while Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif constituted a three-member committee for investigation into the violence. The Punjab environment secretary will be head of the investigation committee while Faisalabad additional commissioner and Toba Tek Singh DPO will be its members.
As per the FIR details, the report has been registered by the deceased’s brother Afaq Khan at the Samanabad Police Station, nominating former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah, his son-in-law Ahmed Shehryar, State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali, DCO Noorul Amin Mengal and 300 unidentified people.
The FIR has been registered under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
According the police, the suspected assailant has been identified as Shahid Ali, a resident of Samanabad area in Faisalabad, adding that raids were being conducted for his arrest. Various sources claimed that Shahid was the bodyguard of Shehryar, Sanaullah’s son-in-law.
The Punjab government has meanwhile announced Rs 5 million as prize money for the one who will facilitate the arrest of the culprits involved in firing incidents.
Later in the evening, Rana Sanaullah issued a press statement claiming that he will reveal the “conspiracy” behind the violence in Faisalabad at 3pm today (Tuesday).
He claimed that PTI activists provoked local traders by forcing them to close businesses and this had led to clashes between the two sides. He also denied that the shooter Shahid Ali was a PML-N activist or the bodyguard of his son-in-law.
PTI CALLS OFF TALKS:
Furthermore, in lieu of the Faisalabad clashes, PTI has called off talks with the government for ending the political impasse which came into being following the allegations of rigging in last year’s general elections.
“Talks cannot continue in the current environment. The government has no right to stop peaceful demonstrations,” said PTI leader Arif Alvi, adding that the PTI chairman had instructed party workers to remain peaceful but the situation worsened after protesters were stopped from carrying out the demonstration.
Last week, chief negotiators from the government and the protesting PTI had hoped that both sides would soon meet on the negotiating table, but were sceptical about the outcome of such an exercise.