Two groups fighting over possession of a piece of commercial property engaged in a 15-minute gun battle on The Mall in the heart of the city in broad daylight on Monday.
Two bystanders were injured in the firing. Eight people were later arrested for attempted murder and offences under the Anti-Terrorism Act for the chaos they caused just 300 metres from the Punjab Assembly and the capital city police officer’s (CCPO) office, Civil Lines police officials told The Express Tribune.
The two groups that engaged in the shootout were fighting over possession of the basement of Lords Hotel, police officials said. They said that land owned by the Naqi Market Trust had been leased to Khalid Mehmood, who in turn had rented it out to the Gondals, a family from Wazirabad. The tenants established the Lords Hotel on the land and also occupied the basement. Mehmood had told the Gondals to leave the basement as he felt that had not been part of the rent agreement. They refused. Both sides placed padlocks on the basement door.
At around 2.40pm in the afternoon, Khalid Mehmood and at least five armed men arrived at the scene in two jeeps which they parked in front of Panorama, said police officials. The Gondals and their gunmen awaited them across the road. They began shooting at each other at around 3.10pm.
Mehmood and his gunmen stood on the footpath, taking cover behind cars. Some gunmen of the Gondal party raced to the top of the building and fired shots from the roof.
As gunfire reverberated in the area, all around people began looking for cover. Car drivers and bikers got out of their vehicles and lay on the ground. Pedestrians ducked into shops and kept low. Several shop windows and at least five cars were hit by bullets.
Two bystanders, identified as Attaullah, 35, from Bajaur Agency and Rashid, 25, were hurt in the shootout. Both were said to be in stable condition in hospital.
The gun fire stopped as soon as the police arrived at the scene, but many of the gunmen continued to hold their positions. As the shooting paused, shopkeepers began quickly drawing their shutters. A jeep passed by on the road and people ducked, expecting gunfire from the vehicle.
Munir Ahmad, a tailor who works at The Mall and who witnessed the shootout, said the police arrived about 20 minutes after the firing began. He said the two sides had been fighting over the basement for two months. He said his car had been damaged in the shooting.
Civil Lines Station House Officer Abid Rasheed told The Express Tribune that eight people five from the Waqas Gondal group and three from the Khalid Mehmood group – had been arrested. He said that they were among a total of 24 people named in an FIR registered for offences under Sections 148 (rioting while armed with a deadly weapon), 149 (joint responsibility) and 324 (attempted murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code, as well as Section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act. The complainant for the FIR was Sub Inspector Nadeem Baber. He said that the weapons used in the shootout included pistols and .222 calibre rifles.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2012.
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