BY SHAH NAWAZ MOHAL AND FARID SABRI
- Sh Rasheed, IK, Jehangir Tareen fail to reach Lal Haveli due to heavy police deployment
- PTI, AML supporters and workers clash with law enforcers
- Police use tear gas, batons to disperse protestors of PTI, AML at Committee Chowk in Pindi
- Around 194 arrests made in twin cities, 19 in Attock and 21 in Chakwal under Section 144
- 177 containers used to block roads and streets, 44 containers parked in front of Lal Haveli alone
The garrison city of Rawalpindi turned into a battleground when workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and supporters of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s Awami Muslim League (AML) clashed with law enforcers, as Imran Khan, Jahangir Tareen and other leaders could not reach Lal Haveli due to tight security and blockades.
Police, in an attempt to pre-empt the public meeting at Lal Haveli after Friday prayers, placed 44 containers on roads and streets leading to Sheikh Rashid’s residence.
Imran Khan and Sheikh Rasheed were expected to speak to the public gathering on their plans of Islamabad lockdown at Lal Haveli, but policemen mostly succeeded in driving away people from gathering at the site. By afternoon, police had dispersed 50 or 60 protestors, mostly children and students of seminaries, who had amassed in the front corridor of Lal Haveli.
After Friday prayers, PTI and AML workers gathered at Committee Chowk on Murree Road which was cordoned off from all four sides. The workers had reached the venue either on foot or on bikes through an array of narrow streets. Nevertheless, police excessively used tear gas and batons in a bid to scatter them.
Then came a cameo from AML chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed riding pillion all the way from Dhok Kashmiriyan through narrow streets of Chittian Hattian to Committee Chowk, Rawalpindi, ditching all law enforcers in his way.
“I had said I will come, Nawaz Sharif. And see here I am,” roared Rasheed from the top of a DSNG van. “Come, arrest me if you can,” he seethed daring police officials to come and arrest him.
He said that police had arrested his nephews, bodyguards, driver and 17 employees of Lal Haveli. “We have taken pictures of these plainclothesmen from the Intelligence Bureau and Special Branch. We’ll never forget them,” he warned.
Later, the AML chief tweeted that what happened today was just a trailer and the whole film would go on air on November 2. After addressing the media for 12 minutes, Rasheed rode away on a motorcycle to Dhok Khabba.
Police kept a distance when Rasheed addressed media and his workers, and allowed him to sneak away in silence.
The Committee Chowk turned into a battleground when protestors, majority of whom hailed from the PTI and AML, pelted policemen with stones. In retaliation, the police fired tear gas shells and used batons on the crowd.
According to sources, around 194 arrests were made from Rawalpindi and Islamabad, 19 from Attock and 21 from Chakwal. These included PTI, AML and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid workers.
Sheikh Raheed Ahmed however claimed that more than 450 workers of his party were arrested. Army helicopters also hovered over Lal Haveli and Committee Chowk.
Despite the imposition of Section 144 in twin cities, workers of both the parties defied the law and gathered in pockets in areas around Lal Haveli and Murree Road.
When contacted for comments, City Police Officer Israr Ahmed Khan Abbasi, who led the operation, said that around 100 people were arrested. “We’ll register cases against them under Section 188 and send them to jail,” he added.
PTI MPA Ejaz Khan Jazi was also arrested on Friday.
Meanwhile, public transport remained functional in larger parts of the city, but Metro Bus service remained suspended in twin cities.
Late on Friday night, the Islamabad district magistrate wrote a letter to the PTI convener, telling him that despite the imposition of Section 144 PTI workers were using loudspeakers illegally.
Forty PTI workers were booked under Section 188 and sent to Adiala Jail by Assistant Commissioner Hassan Waqar Cheema for violating Section 144. Police sources said that at least 40 teams had been formed and each team comprised 10 members, headed by DSPs. They said that these teams had been provided rubber bullets and tear gas shells, while 70 cars were also at their disposal.
Meanwhile, police arrested PTI central leader Jahangir Tareen’s personal security officer Ejaz Ahmad. Sources said that Ahmad was arrested from Banni Gala residence of PTI chief Imran Khan.