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July 17, 2019

Sattar indicted in Pakistan Quarters protest case


July 17, 2019

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Tuesday indicted former Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan chief Farooq Sattar and 13 others on charges of inciting the public to rioting and attacking state authorities during the October 24 eviction operation at the Pakistan Quarters.

Sattar and members of the Pakistan Quarters Residents Committee were booked under sections 147, 148, 149, 186, 283, 337-A(i), 353, 427 and 504 of the Pakistan Penal Code, read with Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, at the Solider Bazaar police station.

According to the FIR, the suspects led a mob against the state authorities who went to the Pakistan Quarters to evict them on the orders of the Supreme Court, and around 400 people, including women and children, gathered on the scene, chanted slogans against the government and interfered with the state work.

The FIR also stated that the protesters attacked the police officials summoned there to ensure law and order, swore at them, pelted them with stones and injured them, and that because of all of the above-mentioned things, the police were forced to use batons, tear gas and water cannon against the demonstrators.

Inside the courtroom, the ATC-XVIII judge read out the charges to the suspects and asked if they admitted to the allegations levelled against them. All of them denied the charges. After that, the judge proceeded with the framing of the charges against them. The suspects are already out on bail.

The court also served summons on the witnesses to appear and record their testimonies in the case. The hearing was adjourned until July 19 with directions to the investigation officer to bring a witness on the next date.

Sattar’s lawyer Latif Pasha claimed that his client was falsely implicated in the case. He said Sattar was only appearing in the residents’ gatherings as a public representative, adding that neither did he take part in the protest nor did he incite anyone to resort to violence.

The showdown

Residents of Pakistan Quarters knew that the police would be conducting an operation to evict them on October 24, so they started preparing for it the night before. They set up blockades on roads and streets to stop the law enforcers. But things got ugly in the morning.

At around 10am, when the police finally began marching ahead removing the hurdles with heavy machinery, the locals — including women, children and the elderly — stood their ground, which resulted in a clash between the two sides.

The locality remained a battlefield for at least four hours, until the Sindh government intervened. The most challenging point for the police was when they managed to enter the area and had to deal with the residents’ Plan B: being attacked by stones from balconies and rooftops.

The police were forced to backtrack, but before they could come up with a counter-plan, they received orders from the provincial administration to halt the operation. Earlier, contingents of law enforcers, including riot police, had been called in for the operation. They employed water cannons, batons and tear gas to disperse the protesters shouting anti-government slogans and pelting them with stones. Over 30 people, including eight policemen, were wounded in the clash, while some women also fell unconscious.

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