Police, PAT workers duke it out

Pakistan on 24 June 2014
Location : Pakistan | Source : Express Tribune. Image Source: Express Tribune

The lives of people in Islamabad’s garrison twin city, Rawalpindi, came to a standstill on Monday as helicopters hovered and heavy contingents of the Punjab police were deployed.

They, along with residents of Islamabad, also witnessed chaos when supporters of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) entered the red zone after breaking the security cordon put in place to block roads leading to the Benazir International Airport to receive their leader, cleric-turned-politician Dr Tahirul Qadri.

Clashes broke out between police and PAT workers on Monday morning as early as 3:30am after the latter asked law enforcers to remove barriers blocking Airport Road near Koral Chowk. When the police officials refused, the protesters began removing the containers themselves to clear the road, after which the police resorted to baton charge and tear-gas shelling.

Overseas Pakistanis and other travellers who arrived at the airport were angry and complained about Dr Qadri and his followers. “Our children might get hurt with his shelling. Please stop this drama,” one man shouted.

Separately, a police official told The Express Tribune that a large number of women participation was the main concern for law enforcers.

Despite the security, PAT supporters succeeded in breaking the security cordon and marched towards the airport holding wooden sticks in their hands.

During the clashes, at least 73 people, including eight police personnel, were injured in Islamabad. PAT workers surrounded six police personnel and beat them up severely. Two policemen lost consciousness and were taken to hospital.

Meanwhile, in Rawalpindi, data from hospitals and Rescue 1122put the total number of injured people to 47, which included 37 policemen and 10 PAT supporters.
Over two dozen protesters were arrested.

Dr Qadri had marched towards the federal capital last year as well along with thousands of his followers. But this time, he returned to ‘bring about a revolution’ after the Model Town tragedy in which 14 people lost their lives, many of them his followers. The incident also added to the anger of his supporters who gathered at the capital from across the country to receive their leader from Benazir Bhutto International Airport.“We have to receive our leader at all costs,” said Akhtar Ali, a PAT worker. And thus, the sticks-brandishing PAT supporters reached the main gate of airport after pushing back the police.

However, the paramilitary Rangers did not allow entry.

While some challenged the police, other party workers were busy in maintaining the zeal of the protesters. One of their top leaders was convincingothers that “Hazrat (Qadri) is not showing up deliberately and he is more concerned about the security of his sons and daughters (party workers) rather than his own life.”

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