LAHORE: Violence flared in several towns and cities on Saturday between police and supporters of Tahirul Qadri, killing at least four people and injuring scores.
Qadri called off a large protest rally planned in Lahore on Sunday. Following a police crack down, he urged supporters to hold smaller protests in their hometowns instead.
“Pick up the bodies of the martyred and keep the injured before you – but protest peacefully,” Qadri said in a televised address. “The government wants a massacre in the name of a crackdown.” The violence, which started on Friday, exacerbated tensions ahead of the Lahore demonstration.
In several parts of Punjab, police tried to block Qadri’s supporters from travelling to Lahore, sparking confrontations and violence, police and witnesses said.
Security was tight in Lahore on Saturday with police manning checkpoints throughout the eastern city. Around 500 Qadri supporters had been arrested, said Nabeela Ghazanfar, the provincial police spokeswoman. Police also said that PAT workers on Saturday killed a constable named Muhammad Fayyaz, 34, while 130 officers were injuries. Moreover, police said that 22 of their officers were made hostages and many others were still missing. According to official handout, PAT workers had attacked police with nail-studded batons, stones, knifes and other weapons. Over in Sargodha, a team headed by the regional police officer (RPO) rescued 15 hostages at Bhera interchange. The hostages with their broken limbs were in a critical state at the ICUs of Bhalwal Hospital and the DHQ. PAT workers also attacked also torched eight police mobiles in the area, officials said. Two men and a woman were killed in the district of Gujranwala, about 220km southeast of Islamabad, said deputy inspector general of police Saad Bahrwana. Another man was shot dead during clashes between Qadri supporters and police in the town of Bhakkar, 320km southwest of the capital, said a doctor. Police said a police station had been burnt down and dozens of weapons seized in the central town of Qaidabad. Rahiq Abbassi, a spokesman for Qadri, said more than a hundred of their supporters were also injured and denied they had attacked the police.
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