Protests orchestrated by religious parties to observe Chehlum of assassin of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer result in violent protests leading to killing of three protesters and injuries to 31 police and Rangers personnel
Qadri’s supporters storm police barricades, set metro bus station, government vehicles on fire as govt deploys army in Red Zone
Sunni Tehreek condemns ‘police brutality’, vows to continue sit-in protests till acceptance of demands, release of protesters from police custody
The federal government called in the army in the federal capital on Sunday night after several thousand religious activists protesting the execution of convicted murderer Mumtaz Qadri breached Islamabad’s Red Zone – three people were killed while 23 police and eight Rangers personnel were injured in the ensuing clashes.
The D-Chowk in Islamabad remained a battleground for hours between the security personnel and supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, who reached the well-guarded zone sans any resistance.
The protesters set a metro bus station at China Chowk on fire. They removed containers and blockades on the way to the Parliament House, setting some of the containers on fire too before staging a protest outside the building, where fiery anti-government speeches were delivered.
A fire brigade vehicle dispatched to the scene was also set ablaze by the angry mob.
ARMY CALLED IN:
The federal government requisitioned Pakistan Army troops to control the situation in the Red Zone of the federal capital after the Rangers and police were unable to control the charged crowd, which was chanting slogans and throwing stones at the police and Rangers personnel.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa said on Twitter that Army has been requisitioned to secure the sensitive installations in Islamabad.
Earlier in the day, riot police used tear gas and batons to disperse the stone-pelting crowd from the high-security zone outside the parliament building; however, the police did not resist the protesters when they proceeded towards Islamabad from Liaquat Bagh.
According to reports, the protesters were allowed to stage a peaceful protest sit-in in front of Parliament House after receiving an assurance from Mufti Abid, who held talks with Islamabad deputy commissioner and SSP on behalf of the protesters.
Abid had said that the protesters should be allowed to stage a peaceful protest, and gave an undertaking that they would not proceed further and would not damage public property.
However, the frenzied Islamist protesters went back on their assurance and set ablaze the Metro bus station in Islamabad, seven containers, three vehicles and three parked motorcycles. The protesters also torched a fire-brigade vehicle as well as containers and barricades outside the parliament.
The protestors did not even spare media personnel and injured several journalists.
Earlier, more than 25,000 people had gathered in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh to participate in the Chehlum of Qadri.
The crowd then turned towards the heavily-barricaded capital which was patrolled by hundreds of police and paramilitary soldiers. Several major arteries leading to Islamabad were closed by authorities.
The procession marched towards Islamabad via Faizabad interchange, which had been blocked by the authorities with containers and barricades. However, the violent protesters removed all the blockades and reached the Red Zone.
Traffic remained off the major roads, including Super Highway, Murree Road and Kashmir Highway due to blockades at several locations adding to the difficulties of the commuters.
SUNNI TEHREEK CONDEMNS ‘POLICE BRUTALITY’:
Sunni Tehreek Chief Sarwat Ejaz Qadri condemned ‘police high-handedness’ in attacking what he said was a peaceful protest.
A statement released from Sunni Tehreek Secretariat quoted Sarwat Qadri as saying that it was not the protesters but the government officials who were responsible for the protests.
Sarwat said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was the man responsible for the deplorable incident in Islamabad.
He said the government had turned peaceful protests violent after it attacked “Prophet-loving patriots”. Sarwat vowed that the sit-in protests would continue till the acceptance of their demands by the government. He demanded that the arrested leaders and workers of Sunni Tehreek be released by the government.
Late on Sunday night, Maulana Ashraf Asif Jalali gave the government a charter of 10 demands to end the sit-in protest at D-Chowk.
According to the Charter of Demands, the religious zealots have demanded (1) The imposition of “Nizam-e-Mustafa” (2) Execution of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted for alleged blashemy (3) No amendment in Section 295-C of the blasphemy laws (4) Immediate release of Namoos-e-Risalat activists (5) Immediate execution of those accused of blaspheming against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) (6) Declare Salmaan Taseer’s convicted murderer Mumtaz Qadri officially a “Shaheed” (7) Announce the declaration regarding ‘martyrdom for Qadri’ on media (8) Accused of Namoos-e-Risalat should be excluded from Diyat and Qisas (9) Members of the Ahmedia community should be expelled from the country and (10) All Ahmedis working in government departments should be terminated from service.
Jalali had given the government until 12.30am to accept the demands or prepare to face the consequences.
GOVERNMENT INACTION OVER PROTESTS:
Despite violent protests between security personnel and the violent mob, Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan remained tight-lipped, which raised many eyebrows.
Increasingly violent protests have been a familiar sight in Pakistan since the execution of Mumtaz Qadri almost a month ago.
VIOLENCE WAS IMMINENT:
Protests have been staged every Thursday in Lahore since the execution. As soon as the protesters arrive and take control of one of the city’s main roads, the police make themselves scarce.
The unruly protesters write anti-government and anti-state slogans on government buildings, but the government is content with simply painting over the graffiti and ordering the media to provide no coverage to the protests.
Sunday’s protest was also largely ignored by the Pakistani media in order to prevent the unrest from spiraling out of control.
Qadri was working as a bodyguard for Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer when he shot him 29 times in 2011 over the governor’s call to reform the Blasphemy Law, which critics say is frequently misused to oppress religious minorities.
The execution of Qadri on February 29 was viewed by analysts as a “key moment” in Pakistan’s long battle against religious extremism, but it has also exposed deep religious divisions in the country.
Qadri’s supporters have taken to the streets a number of times since his execution to protest the hanging.