Frenzied mobs clashed with police, attacked the office of a TV channel in Karachi and the press club in Hyderabad as protesters took to streets after Friday prayers against the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri – who confessed to murdering former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.
Religious organisations took out rallies and held protest demonstrations in major cities of the country including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi, Mardan, Kasur and elsewhere.
Angry protesters, mostly students of religious seminaries, vandalized shops in Karachi’s main electronics market in Saddar while a police station was attacked during a rally in Lahore’s Lower Mall area.
They pelted the office of AAJ News with stones and damaged vehicles parked outside the office in Karachi.
Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) condemned the attacks on the media organisation and journalists, calling on the government to provide security to journalists.
In a statement, the PBA expressed complete solidarity with its member channel AAJ News against this act of violence.
“PBA terms this act as an attempt to curb freedom of expression and to discourage media from performing its constitutional responsibilities,” it said.
The PBA demanded of the government to initiate an immediate action to apprehend the attackers.
“PBA has continuously been drawing attention of the government towards the attacks on media houses, but so far there has been no action taken to either curb this violence or to provide security to media. PBA reiterates and urges the government to immediately take proper and effective measures in this respect,” the statement said.
Editors for Safety (EFS) also called on the federal and provincial governments to ensure security of journalists and media houses.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the ransacking of AAJ television offices in Lahore and Karachi.
In a statement, he said the government believed in freedom of media and such attacks were condemnable.
Reports suggested that the channel was attacked by supporters of Mumtaz Qadri over lack of media coverage of the convict’s funeral.
However, police said the channel was not targeted.
“Protesters were moving towards Numaish Chowrangi, who broke windowpanes of one of the cars parked outside the Recorder House,” SHO Soldier Bazaar Irshad Soomro said.
Meanwhile, the Hyderabad Press Club also came under an attack by unidentified protesters.
Unidentified protesters also torched tires near MA Jinnah Road and Naz Plaza in Karachi, and forcibly closed several shops in Saddar’s electronics market.
Traffic jam was witnessed in Saddar, Guru Mandir, Lasbela, Teen Hatti, Regal Chowk, Numaish Chowrangi and Preedy areas of the port city.
In Lahore, the frenzied mobs blocked Mall Road in front of the Punjab Assembly and burnt tires.
The protesters armed with sticks and batons also harassed passersby as police maintained a good distance from them to prevent a clash.
Age old antiques and souvenirs were also reported missing from Punjab Assembly’s museum after the protest ended.
Punjab Assembly security supervisor Riaz Ahmed told Pakistan Today that the antiques were “stolen from the museum within assembly premises by the protesters who ransacked the building” after Friday prayers. The antiques included a gift from the Government of Oman.
Police reached the spot following the incident and collected evidence but so far no one has been taken into custody.
Back in 2014, antiques stolen from Balochistan province were recovered by Italian police in Rome.
The recovered antiques were said to be thousands of years old and were considered highly valuable in the international market, a statement issued by Balochistan government had said.