PESHAWAR: All roads leading to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly looked like a battleground as police tried to clear the protesting activists of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) from the provincial assembly.
Protestors, most of whom were from the Khyber Agency and Peshawar region, started gathering outside the provincial assembly as early as 10am.
Holding up JUI-F flags and banners with slogans against the FATA merger, protestors were accompanied by vehicles, from which their leaders addressed and directed them how to proceed.
Demonstrators, who turned violent after some time, tried to stop other lawmakers from entering the premises of the K-P Assembly in a bid to stop the voting on the FATA merger bill.
The K-P government deployed a heavy contingent of police to guard the assembly ahead of the historic 2 o’clock session.
Protesters torched tyres on the Khyber Road in front of the assembly.
They later shut the assembly’s gates, denying everyone from entering or leaving the premises.
At first, police officials tried to negotiate with the protestors, but the talks yielded no results and the siege continued.
Various JUI-F leader tried to keep the protestors calm, but after 12:30pm police gave a 10-minute deadline, asking the protestors to vacate the premises and disperse peacefully.
The deadline was given by SSP operations Javed Iqbal, heading the police contingent.
When protestors refused to budge, police resorted to baton-charge and fired tear-gas shells, forcing the protestors to retreat.
A number of demonstrators leapt over razor-sharp barbed wire fence that blocked the road.
Protestors initially retreated to the Jail Road to avoid the intense tear-gas shelling. Once they thought they were far away, they started peling stones at policemen.
Wetting handkerchiefs to lessen the effects of tear-gas, JUI-F activists tore up bricks from footpaths and hurled them towards the police.
As protestors regrouped, they tossed stones and bricks on police, media and passing vehicles.
At least six media persons, including a driver, and six policemen were injured.
A number of media vehicles were also damaged.
The police charged again, using heavy tear-gas shelling and fierce baton-charge, effectively clearing all roads surrounding the assembly.
Police arrested as many as three dozen protestors and took them all to the Sharqi police station.
SSP operations Javed Iqbal said that after waiting for protestors to disperse peacefully for three hours, police resorted to harsher means.
“Protestors blocked all roads for nearly three hours. We asked them to open the roads and ordered them not to create pulic nuisance, but they refused to listen … We had to take action,” the SSP said, adding that as many as 30 protestors had been arrested.
Protestors later gathered at the construction site of the Peshawar BRT project and torched plastic barriers, closing the road leading to the Lady Reading Hospital.
The road was later cleared by the police.
The police, however, kept the Jail Road and Khyber Road closed for general traffic during the assembly session, which lasted till 6pm in the evening.