By Our Staff Reporter
Rawalpindi: First Liaquat Bagh then Faizabad provided a battlefield scene as police and stick-powered activists from Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) clashed throughout the day on Sunday.
Riot police had to resort to tear gas shelling against the stone-walled demonstrators who had gathered in response to TLP Leader Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi’s call to condemn the publication by French President Emmanuel Macron of the blasphemous caricatures in Charlie Hebdo magazine and remarks about Islam and terrorism.
During the clashes, hundreds of police officers, including Waris Khan Police Station SHO Abdul Aziz, and some TLP activists were wounded and moved to hospitals.
“Heavy tear gas shelling also affected residents of the adjacent areas, many of whom complained of trouble breathing,” said a local resident near Liaquat Bagh.
Earlier on Saturday, police made announcements asking traders on Murree Road and neighbouring markets to keep their businesses closed on Sundays, warning them of legal action if they did not comply with the Directives.
The 24 entry points of the city were sealed with shipping containers, including Soan Bridge, Kutchery Chowk, Mareer Chowk, Liaquat Bagh, Shamasabad, Rehmanabad, Double Lane, Adiala Road, Chur Chowk and I.J. The main lane.
As many as 16 entry points to Islamabad have also been blocked. There has also been no cell phone service in the Rawalpindi division since late Saturday night.
At Faizabad, police officers checked every vehicle, particularly public transport, entered Islamabad and questioned the passengers.
City Police Officer Mohammad Ahsan Younas himself was in charge of the operation against the TLP demonstrators. More than 170 activists were rounded up on Friday and Saturday, and more than 130 on Sunday.
The protesters, whose number was officially given to around 3,000, managed to enter the Faizabad Interchange, where they staged a sit-in. Streetlights on Murree Road and Faizabad remained switched off as the protesters marched along Murree Road.
Islamabad Capital Territory Police have also taken unprecedented security steps to prevent protesters from entering their city. About 3,100 law enforcement officers, including 575 Rangers and 250 Frontier Constabulary personnel, have been deployed. Police brought 14 prison vans, five water cannons and six armed personnel carriers to ensure the protection of critical government buildings and the maintenance of law and order.
Addressing the protesters, Saad Rizvi, the son of the TLP leader who had reached Liaquat Bagh with other clerics on Sunday, said they would not be deterred by arrests and shelling, and the rally would proceed as expected. He requested that the French ambassador be immediately expelled and that all political, commercial and economic relations with the country be dissolved.
Many demonstrators were able to climb onto the metro bus route and started marching towards Islamabad. They clashed with the police on the way and destroyed the bus stations in the metro.
According to a report submitted to retired Commissioner Capt Mohammad Mehmood, CCTV cameras were broken at Committee Chowk and Waris Khan Metro Bus Stations, while glass panes of Sixth Road Station and Faizabad Elevator were destroyed.
Meanwhile, journalists covering the protest reported that the TLP activists threatened them and ransacked their cell phones.
People could also be seen walking to their destinations due to the closing of the roads and the lack of public transport. All major commercial and commercial areas of the town and canton of Rawalpindi remained closed except for residential areas. However the people living in areas near to where the clashes took place were the most affected.
Arif Tanoli, a resident of the Chowk Committee, said people had suffered a lot because of the blockades, the closure of shops and the suspension of cell phone service. He said he couldn’t buy some medication for his dad who was a diabetic because they weren’t allowed to leave their house.