Saturday July 02, 2022

Rangers, not army, to deal with sit-in

By News Desk & our correspondents
November 27, 2017

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE/KARACHI: Civil and military leaderships on Sunday decided not to use force against the Tehreek Labaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters staging a sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. It was also decided that Rangers, not the army, will be deployed to deal with the sit-in issue.

This was agreed upon in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The meeting was attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.

After the high-level huddle, the prime minister and COAS held a one-on-one meeting. The two officials exchanged views on the matter and tried to formulate a plan of action. The two officials discussed the issue of whether firearms should be used by army personnel. Both officials agreed that the issue should be resolved in a peaceful manner.

The army chief said that the federal government had called out the army to help the civil administration. He said that there was sensitivity in the notification of the interior ministry, which needs an explanation. The COAS affirmed that that the army will act according to the law and Constitution, and is ready to meet the responsibilities. He said that the army should be the last option after exhausting other avenues.

The COAS also expressed concern over restrictions placed on TV news channels and suggested that the prohibition be removed, sources said. The army chief also suggested that the findings of the Raja Zafar-ul-Haq committee should be made public, and the responsible person(s) should be penalized.

The army chief was on a visit to the United Arab Emirates and cut short his trip to reach the country last night, sources said. Meanwhile, Faizabad sit-in entered 21st day on Sunday. Protests, sit-ins continued in every nook and corner of the country, including Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad, against crackdown on TLP dharna.

Rangers on Sunday morning took front position at Faizabad Interchange as security arrangements have been handed over to them. The move came a day after police and Frontier Constabulary (FC) failed to remove the violent protesters of the TLP from the Faizabad Interchange. Police and FC personnel have been removed from the location and deployed at a distance from the protest site.

The decision was taken in a meeting held Saturday night among police, administration and Rangers authorities. Police has requested for at least 1,000 security personnel for operation in surrounding Faizabad areas.

A notification issued by the Interior Ministry read that the paramilitary force had been handed over the crackdown for a week – from November 26 to December 3. The Director General Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) Major General Azhar Naveed Hayat will head the operation.

Meanwhile reports said that the protestors indulged in violent acts on Sunday morning. They attacked and burnt a police check post at the entry point of Islamabad and set on fire four motorcycles and one car. They also smashed the CCTV cameras at Faizabad installed as part of the Safe City Project.

The situation became normal in Rawalpindi city after Saturday protests. Protesters also ended the siege of Chaudhry Nisar’s residence. Protesters cleared Murree Road and limited themselves to Faizabad only. Road leading from Double Road to Islamabad also reopened for traffic.

Heavy deployment of police outside Chaudhry Nisar, Hanif Abbasi and Raja Zafarul Haq’s houses has been observed in Rawalpindi. Six more cases have been registered against the protesters in Islamabad under the sections pertaining to anti-terrorism and other serious sections. The cases were registered in I-9, Aabpara, Koral and Khanna police stations. The cases nominated TLY leaders including Pir Afzal Qadri, Khadim Hussain Rizvi and others. So far, 400 people have been arrested by the police since yesterday and 26 difference cases have been registered against the protesters.

Meanwhile, TLP chief Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi, while addressing a press conference at the dharna vanue, said that they will observe shutterdown strike against killings of their activists during Saturday crackdown. About a question on continuation or ending of the sit-in, he said that central leadership of the party will decide about it.

He said that first the federal law minister should resign then there could be negotiations on their demands.

Besides Islamabad, protestors and LEAs' officials are facing off in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Hyderabad, Nowshera, Mingora, Haripur, Mansehra and many other cities and towns. Protesters and workers of religious parties also continued their protest in Lahore.

The protesters are currently holding sit-ins at Imamia Colony, Ferozepur Road, Shahdra, Kutchehri Chowk, Chohang on Multan Road, Lakshmi Chowk, Thokar Niaz Baig, Chungi Amarsadhu, Garhi Shahu, Mughalpuram Liberty Chowk, Johar Town, Punjab Assembly, Shah Alam Market, Timber Market and various other areas.

The protesters blocked the railway line at Imamia Colony. Babu Sabu Interchange is also blocked. According to reports, there are 35 points in the propvincial capital where the roads are blocked.

Moreover, M2, the motorway that connects Lahore to Islamabad, is also blocked by the protesters and Metro Bus Service is blocked too. Shahdra Police Station was set on fire by the protesters.

Rangers have also arrived at Mall Road of Lahore where protesters are gathered in large numbers outside Punjab Assembly. Security of Punjab Assembly and Wapda House has been handed to Rangers.

In Vehari, PML-N MNA Tahir Iqbal Chaudhry announced quitting the party in protest against action against the TLP activists. He joined a demonstration on the Multan Road and supported the demands of the religious activists.

The police used teargas to disperse religious activists when they pelted the house of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah with stones at Samanabad in Faisalabad. After staging a sit-in at Chowk Clock Tower, they gathered outside the house of Rana Sanaullah and chanted slogans against the use of force in Islamabad. In the meantime, the police started using teargas to disperse them. Some teargas shells fell into nearby houses. All the eight bazaars around Chowk Clock Tower remained closed on Sunday.

Meanwhile, 14 religious leaders of Faisalabad including Mufti Saeed Rizvi, Mufti Farooq Qadir, Mufti Habib Sialvi, Mufti Abid Noorani, Mufti Aziz Ahmad and Mufti Saeed Ahmad Asad, addressing a press conference, demanded immediate action against people involved in action against Faizabad protesters.

In Lahore, some miscreants attacked the house of Punjab Food Minister Bilal Yaseen on the Mohni Road. The attackers carrying sticks broke windows and tried to enter the minister's house but were confronted by his security men. The minister and his family were not present there at the time of the incident. By the time the police reached the scene, the miscreants had fled.

In Sialkot, religious workers took out rallies and staged demonstrations. Hundreds of activists of the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, TLP, Pakistan Awami Tehreek and other religious organisations took out rallies at Sublime Chowk, Shahabpur Chowk, Chowk Allama Iqbal, Alam Chowk, Rangpura Chowk, Hajipura Chowk, Pul Aaik Hajipur, Pul Aaik Nekapura, Lahai Bazaar, Kutchehry Road, Defense Road, Khadim Ali Road and Railway Road, and blocked roads. They burnt tyres to register their protest. Due to the protests, severe traffic mess was witnessed on different roads on the city. The police did not stop the protesters to avoid any clash with them. The protesters also staged sit-ins while all markets and shops remained close in the city.

In Kasur, protests were continued for the second consecutive day as the agitators spent the whole night at Ferozpur Road Bypass. In Kanganpur, hundreds of protesters stopped Karachi-bound Farid Express at Haji Chand Station by parking tractor trolleys and rickshaws on the rail track. They also burnt tyres near the tracks and chanted slogans against the government. The train, however, resumed its journey after a delay of about six hours. Negotiations between the protesters and law enforcement agencies took many rounds but with no result. The protesters erected tents at Ferozpur Road while some volunteers managed food and water for them. 

The commuters felt great inconvenience and many had to adopt long alternate routes to reach Kasur. The protesters were stick to their demands and blocked various roads in the district, including Ferozpur Road, Multan Road, Kot Radha Kishan Road, Deepalpur Road and Chunian Road.

In Toba Tek Singh, all markets remained closed on Sunday in Gojra. The sit-in was also continued on the second consecutive day at Gadda Khana Chowk. A rally was also taken out which marched through different bazaars. Pakistan National Muslim League chief Amjad Ali Warraich and others participated in the rally and sit-in. Protesters continued their sit-in at Shahbaz Chowk on the second consecutive day on Sunday. Due to protest, traffic remained blocked at Jhang Road. PTI central vice president Chaudhry M Ashfaq visited the sit-in camp to show solidarity with the protesters. In their speeches, Sunni Tehreek district president Maulana Munem Hussnain Siddiqui and Allama Hameeduddin Rizvi and others demanded immediate resignation of all the federal cabinet ministers. Awami League chief Riaz Fatyana has condemned the killings of protesters at different places. Addressing a big gathering at the sit-in venue of religious activists at Thana Chowk, Kamalia on Sunday afternoon, he demanded the PML-N government to resign. The speakers announced that their protest and sit-in will continue till acceptance of the TLP demands. Meanwhile, complete shutter down strike was also observed at Kamalia on Sunday.

In Gujranwala devision, protests were carried on the second consecutive day. A large number of workers of TLP, ST, Sunni Force, Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, Jamaat Razai Mustafa staged sit-in at Chanda Qilla, Gakhar, Alipur and Wazirabad.

The protesters burnt tyres and blocked the road which caused trouble for passengers. Addressing the participants, clerics urged upon the need for early release of arrested workers and also demanded resignation of the law minister.

In Bahawalpu, religious activists continued their protest for the second consecutive day. In Bahawalnagar, hundreds of activists of the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat and its allies parties took out the Labaik Ya Rasool Allah rally which started from Jamia Raza-e-Mustafa and culminated at Rafique Shah Chowk where the protesters staged a sit-in.

Speaking on the occasion, leaders of the protesters announced shutter down in the district on Monday (today) against the Faizabad operation. Meanwhile, protest rallies were taken out at Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Rahimyar Khan, Ahmadpur East, Samma Satta, Khanqah Sharif , Haroonabad and Khanpur.

In Hafizabad, scores of various Sunni organisations’ workers staged a sit-in at Fawara Chowk and raised slogans against the government. Addressing the participants, speakers said anarchy was created due to defective policies of the present rulers. Moreover, a large number of people took out protest rallies at Kaleke, Vanike Tarar, Jalalpur Bhattian and Sukheki. Leaders of Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajaran announced observing complete shutter down strike today.

In Dera Ghazi Khan, a large number of protesters continued sit-in on Sunday at Pul Dot and chanted slogans against the government. The angry protesters also burnt tyres. The traffic police stopped the vehicles from reaching the centre of the city and also did not allow heavy traffic which led to gridlock at Dera-Quetta highway. The protesters started their protest in the morning and dispersed in the evening. The traffic resumed on all routes in the evening.

In Lalamusa: the Main Bazaar and Camping Ground remained closed and the people faced severe problems due to traffic jam. Meanwhile, sources claimed that a meeting was held between the religious activists and the administrations. Later, traffic restored on various roads of the city. The religious activists warned that the protest would start again if the arrested workers were not released and the demands of the activists were not accepted.

The Punjab government announced closing all public and private educational institutions, including schools, colleges and universities, across the province on Monday (today) and Tuesday (tomorrow).

The notifications and necessary instructions in this regard have been issued by the respective departments. Owing to the abrupt closure of educational institutions, many schools, colleges and universities like Punjab University and Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) have postponed their ongoing examinations scheduled for November 27, and November 28, 2017, with instructions remaining part/s of the exams would be held as per schedule. The new dates of postponed exams would be announced later.

Also, the Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department announced that medical colleges in Punjab will remain closed on November 27 and 28, 2017. The classes in medical universities in Punjab will also remain off during the next two days, said the spokesman for SHC&ME in a statement issued here on Sunday. As the people of Karachi continued to reel from the previous day’s violent events on Sunday, they chose to confine themselves to their homes instead of throwing caution to the winds.

Clashes also broke out in different parts of Karachi, where police tried clearing the roads of the agitators. On Sunday protesters blocked the Super Highway, the main artery for entering and exiting the metropolis. Due to their protest at Al-Asif Square, which leads towards the Super Highway, a large number of intercity buses and heavy vehicles were stuck at the highway, including Shahrah-e-Pakistan.

Till late night, agitators were still sitting at the O Point of Abul Hasan Ispahani Road, while long queues of heavy traffic and other vehicles were stuck at the highway, with no government attempt in sight to alleviate the situation. The sit-in between Shafiq Morr and the UBL Complex had been cleared, but the one at Sohrab Goth was still under way.

Sit-ins also affected the localities of Tower, Shah Faisal Colony, Mosamiat, Numaish, Orangi No 5, Baldia No 4, Sakhi Hasan towards Nagan Chowrangi, Sohrab Goth Bridge towards Gulshan, Teen Hatti, Liaquatabad Daak Khana, Liaquatabad No 10, Power House Chowrangi, Sohrab Goth, Korangi No 2½, Korangi No 5, Korangi Nasir Jump, Landhi No 6 and Al-Asif Square.

Protesters also ransacked the office of the Korangi deputy commissioner. Quoting the DC’s statement, the Korangi police said he left the office to visit different parts of the districts.

He received calls at around 2:30pm from the additional deputy commissioner-I and the assistant commissioner informing him that around 50 violent agitators had attacked the office. The protesters smashed windows and damaged motorbikes on the premises, as the available staff took shelter on the roof of the complex. The situation was brought under control after the police and Rangers were called in.

Meanwhile, the attackers claimed that one of the DC office’s vehicles had hit and killed a girl, but the DC denied the allegation, saying that the wing commander of the 83-Wing Bhittai Rangers had produced two eyewitnesses of the accident before the Korangi SSP and according to the registration number they provided, the vehicle did not belong to him.

Talking to The News, SSP Noman Siddiqui confirmed the DC’s claim, saying that they had recorded the statements of the witnesses and the police investigation of the matter was still under way.

Inland distribution of oil was disrupted as protesters blocked roads in the Sohrab Goth area and thus obstructed mobility of oil tankers, reported Geo News. Enraged agitators began gathering in Sohrab Goth earlier in the day and put up blockades, resulting in long queues of oil tankers as traffic choked up.

According to a spokesperson of the Oil Tanker Contractors Association, several million litres of petrol was present in the tankers that were unable to transport oil inland. Keeping in view the city’s law and order situation, the Sindh Education Department on Sunday directed public and private institutions to keep all academic activities suspended on Monday (today).

Moinuddin, the media coordinator for the provincial education minister, told The News that the minister had decided to keep all schools and colleges closed on Monday. He said the decision was just for Monday and any extension in the closure period would be decided on later.

Representatives of three different private schools associations, Khalid Shah, Haider Ali and Sharaf uz Zaman Siddiqui, all confirmed to The News that they would follow the education department’s directives. They had earlier demanded that the education department announce a holiday owing to the unavailability of public transport.

While most of the universities contacted by The News had decided to keep their respective institutions closed, the University of Karachi’s spokesperson said the varsity will remain open and all activities, including examinations, will be held as per schedule on Monday.

Akhtar Baloch, the vice chancellor of the Benazir Bhutto Shaheed University in Lyari, said the varsity will remain closed to keep its students, who come from various areas of the city, out of harm’s way.

Sindh Madressatul Islam University’s public relations officer, Mustafa Jatoi, also stated that the management had informed its students that all educational activities will remain suspended at the varsity. However, he said students who wished to submit their admission forms could do so at the university.

Among other varsities to remain closed on Monday are the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, the Allama Iqbal Open University, NED University, Dow University of Health Sciences, Jinnah University for Women, Sir Syed University, Dawood University of Engineering and Technology and Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Law (Szabul).

All of these varsities have postponed examinations scheduled for Monday (today) and new dates would be announced later. In Nowshera, the members of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat took out a protest rally to resent the action. The protesters staged a demonstration at Shobra Chowk and blocked the Grand Trunk Road to traffic, inconveniencing the road users.

Chanting slogans against the government, the demonstrators passed through the Nowshera Cantonment and reached the Shobra Chowk. Speaking on the occasion, Pirzada Mohammad Amin, Pirzada Waqasul Amin and Pir Rehmat Karim demanded action against those who had tried to amend the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat declaration.

In Mingora district, the protesters held a demonstration in Madyan, demanding the release of the arrested persons and the provision of treatment to the injured. Addressing the protesters, the speakers criticised the government for taking action against the TLP members.

In Haripur, members of the religious parties continued sit-in for the second day against the crackdown on TLP dharna in Islamabad. The activists representing Pakistan Falah Party, Pakistan Sunni Tehreek and Awami Tehreek staged the protest.

The protesters blocked the Grand Trunk Road for an hour, forcing the administration to divert traffic to the link roads. The protesters reopened the road and set up the protest camp on one side of the road.

In Mansehra, traders and transporters announced to observe a shutdown and wheeljam on Wednesday to express solidarity with the protesters of Faizabad sit-in. Mohammad Shoaib, the president of central traders body, announced this to the reporters after a meeting attended by representatives of transporters and other unions.

In Quetta, protesters held a demonstration in front of Press Club on the second consecutive day on Sunday. The protesters said that Islamabad dharna has no political ambitions. It is for security of faith of Finality of Prophethood. Dharna people enjoy support of entire nation.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board announced that National T20tournament’s final, semi-final adjourned for indefinite period in Rawalpindi Pakistan Railways service was either suspended, or trains were delayed due to blockage of tracks at different places by protesters.

According to the PR sources, several trains, including 10-Down Allama Iqbal Express, 104-Down, 8-Down and 40-Down, trains were stopped at different places for security of passengers.

Train operation on the Lahore-Faisalabad section was suspended as protesters had blocked the tracks at Imamia Colony, GT Road crossing while Lahore-Rawalpindi and Lahore-Narowal Sections are also closed due to the protest and for the safety of passengers. However, rail track between Lahore and Karachi remained open in the PR Lahore division. The Railways sources said the train operation would be restored as soon as the situation improves.