LAHORE: At least nine people, including two women, were killed and over 100 injured as police allegedly opened fire at workers of Dr Tahirul Qadri-led Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) outside Minhajul Quran Secretariat in Model Town on Tuesday.
The clashes began as police went to remove the ‘illegal’ security structures from the office and residence of Tahirul Qadri in Model Town on Monday night at around 2:30am, arguing that the local people had complained of troubles due to the barricades, reports said. The PAT workers tried to abort the effort, inviting severe shelling by the riot police. They chanted slogans and pelted police with stones as it moved a bulldozer to raze the structures. The police used tear gas to disperse the protesters. As the sun rose, heavy police reinforcements arrived and started captured the workers involved in rioting.
The area virtually turned into a battlefield as initial attempts for a negotiated settlement failed. The PAT workers gathered in huge numbers. They burnt tyres and chanted slogans against police and the Punjab government. The police, in a desperate bid to disperse the mob, allegedly opened fire at the protesters and also fired aerial shots. At least nine people were killed, and over hundred injured, mostly with bullet wounds and that too in upper parts of the body. Several bullets hit the house of Tahirul Qadri and the other nearby buildings. Police also fired tear gas which created panic among the locals.
Rescue teams reached the spot and started shifting the injured to a nearby hospital, where many of the injured were still said to be in critical condition. The administration confirmed that nine bodies and over 104 injured were brought to the Jinnah Hospital, of whom around 61 had sustained bullet wounds. The hospital administration said at least 24 policemen were also among the injured. Condition of at least 15 PAT workers is said to be precarious. Three of the injured were later shifted to the LGH and five to the Services Hospital.
The hospital administration said that most of the police officials were discharged after medical treatment. They said that all policemen received minor injuries but one or two who received bullet wounds.
Emergency was declared in the city hospitals and special teams were set up to provide best medical treatment to the injured. A number of relatives and friends of the injured persons reached the hospitals to inquire after them.
Police, meanwhile, managed to remove all the barricades despite intense resistance. Anti-encroachment officials were later seen clearing the area and removing the rubble. Heavy police presence could be seen in the locality to keep the situation under control.
Police claimed that local people had complained of troubles caused by the barricaded roads.
Police says the clashes began as they tried to remove the ‘illegal’ security barricades from the office of Pakistan Awami Tehreek. “When police reached there to remove illegal encroachments, workers started pelting stones and threw petrol bombs from the roof,” Capital City Police Officer Chaudhry Shafiq told media. The deaths resulted from ‘bullets fired by workers, not police’, he claimed.
“They made no-go areas in the city. None will be allowed to do that,” he added.
Sources, however, said that barricades were not the only cause behind this tragic incident. “The government wants to deliver Dr Qadri a strong message ahead of his planned rally on his return on June 23 in Islamabad.”
The party boycotted last year’s general election, criticising the current system of parliamentary democracy which according to Dr Qadri is based on corruption and lacks legitimacy. The PAT chief also led a rally of more than a hundred thousand people to the federal capital ahead of the gereal election last year, where he gave the government an ultimatum to introduce reforms or get ready for prolonged protests.
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