ISLAMABAD: The government strategy to put an end to the protracted sit-in of the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLYR) backfired when the TLYR zealots retaliated with iron rods and pelted stones at the law enforcement agencies’ personnel, making the situation worse.
The sit-in was being staged by a troika of three religious parties that included Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) led by firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST) and Tehreek-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat, to demand the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid over accusations of removing the clause of Khatam-e-Nabuwat in the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017.
Moreover, apparently provoked by the live coverage of the operation by TV channels, religious activists took to streets across the country in defence of their cause, thus bringing the country to a standstill.
The operation was initiated by the police, Rangers, Frontier Constabulary and other law enforcement agencies early in the morning on the directions of Islamabad High Court (IHC) after several deadlines given by the government to the TLYR leadership had lapsed.
Owing to the violent clashes, all major hospital were put on high alert and a total of 168 injured had been taken to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), while another 12 injured were taken to Polyclinic hospital; however, no casualty was reported by these hospitals so far.
Out of the total 168 injured, 64 were policemen, 53 were FC personnel, while 51 were civilians. However, all injured taken to the hospital were out of danger.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Polyclinic spokesperson Sharif Astori said that a total of 12 injured reported to Polyclinic hospital of which nine were police personnel and three were civilian.
The few-hour operation resulted in the death of at least four persons, including a cop along with detention of over 350 protesters. The policeman was martyred due to a bullet wound in his neck during the operation, sources said. However, the identity of the cop was not revealed by the doctors. Two of the other three deceased included Adeel and Jahanzeb Butt, said doctors at the Allied Hospitals.
Among the injured high-ups of police and district administration were ADCG Islamabad Captain (retd) Shoaib Ali, Assistant Commissioner Abdul Hadi, Industrial Circle DSP Arif Hussain Shah, PS I-9 SHO Qasim Niazi, City Police Officer (CPO) Rawalpindi Israr Ahmed Khan Abbasi, SP Potohar Division Syed Ali, New Town Station House Officer (SHO) Police Station Javed Iqbal Mirza, and Kallar Syedan SHO Sheikh Qasim.
Five media persons were also wounded and were taken to hospitals for medical treatment. A female polio worker became a target of the rocks thrown by the protesters.
Agitated by the operation, the protesters went on a rampage spree. They attacked the house of the former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar. As a result, the security guards deployed at the residence of the former minister opened fired at the assailants, killing one person at the spot. However, it was not confirmed by the time story went into print.
Hundreds of charged protesters holding sticks into hands attacked the residence of former federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to pull out the policemen who took refuge inside the residence to save their lives. The protesters managed to breach house premises and damaged the property.
A police officer told Pakistan Today, “I along with 50 other policemen arrived at the residence to protect it; however, Nisar went to a safe place in an APC, leaving us to the mercy of violent protesters. All the policemen were injured critically and nobody came to rescue us.” He further said that he took refuge in a vehicle to save his life from the religious mob, adding that he would be lucky if he would go back home in one piece.
Moreover, a source confided to Pakistan Today that a group of protesters managed to climb the Metro Bus Station in Shamasabad and started damaging it when CPO Israr Abbasi and Rangers high-ups invited them for negotiations. However, the meeting met with failure and the mob pounced upon police party, injuring CPO Israr Abbasi and SP Syed Ali.
As many as 35 cops sustained injuries, said a police official, adding Rangers did not even move forward to save police from such blatant attack.
The attacks on police saw a surge as they had not erected barricades and left the Murree Road opened for people; so protesters in small groups kept on attacking police parties stationed at Faizabad Interchange. The irate mob also set ten prison vehicles, four private vehicles, three bikes and a DSNG on fire.
Reportedly, large numbers of cops of Rawalpindi police managed to flee from the battlefield after seeing their top bosses thrashed by the protesters.
The reluctant operation sparked widespread violent protests across the country. The agitators blocked the roads in the twin cities, including GT Road, Islamabad Motorway. In Taxila, protesters had torn down banners of Chaudhry Nisar and MPA Umer Farooq and chanted slogans against them.
A large number of lawyers headed by Sajjad Akbar Abbasi blocked the Katcheri Chowk to condemn the use of force against the protesters.
Similarly, mobs blocked Chakri Interchange, GT Road near T-Chowk Rawat, Adiala Road, Dheri Hassanabad, Bakra Mandi, Kohinoor Mills on Peshawar Road, Tarnol, Koral Chowk, Dhoke Kala Khan, Dhoek Sohan, Tarambri Chowk and Rawal Chowk.
Abdul Wahid Khan, a resident of I-8/4, expressed dismay over the inability of the government to handle the situation efficiently, saying it seemed like saving Zahid Hamid was more important than the peace of the residents of the twin cities.
Meanwhile, some critics also lashed out at district administrations and police officials, saying that the police and security forces started the operation without any proper planning that gave a chance to the protesters—2,000 in number— to overpower more than 8,500 riot-gear police, Rangers and FC personnel.