Shopkeepers clashed with the police, town staff and one another at the Auriga Shopping Complex in Gulberg on Tuesday, forcing the postponement of a plan to demolish encroachments in the market.
The trouble began almost as soon as Gulberg Town and Lahore Development Authority staff arrived with heavy machinery and a police team. At first, the traders remonstrated with the town staff not to start demolishing shops in the parking area. When they refused, they began pushing and shoving and throwing stones. There were also outbreaks of fights between the shopkeepers.
The situation worsened when some traders grabbed Station House Officer (SHO) Mian Qadeer and slapped him. The policemen baton-charged the traders, who retreated to their shops and shut them down. One constable was injured in the melee. Once the police got involved, the town staff left the scene.
The standoff ended after police and traders negotiated. The police left without arresting any protestors, while the anti-encroachment drive was postponed for a couple of days.
SHO Qadeer told The Express Tribune that the real source of the fighting was tensions within the market union. He said that traders whose shops encroached on the corridors in the shopping complex and in the parking area suspected that the union president had asked the LDA to come in and conduct the operation.
About the clashes between police and the protestors, he said, “If a senior police officer is threatened by someone then obviously his subordinates will step in. But the original trouble was within the union.” He said that the union was supporting the operation.
Auriga Traders’ Union president Gul Khan said that the union was not involved in the protest, but did not support the LDA action either. “They started the operation without prior notice, which hurt our business activities. We will not allow the staff to operate in our complex,” he said.
Gulberg Town Officer (Regulations) Faisal Shahzad said that the town staff had expectinged resistance, which was why they had brought the police along. He denied that there had been no advance notice, saying they had distributed pamphlets in the market telling shopkeepers to remove the encroachments voluntarily or see them removed forcibly.
He said that the anti-encroachment drive would resume after two days.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2011.