Aftermath: After thousands protest, less than a hundred remanded

Lawyers claim accused cannot be tried by ATC, judge tells them to file proper plea.


Mudassir Raja September 23, 2012

RAWALPINDI/ ISLAMABAD:


A total of 52 suspects, arrested by Islamabad police for rioting, were sent on judicial remand for 14 days by an anti-terrorism court on Saturday.


Separately, an area magistrate granted the Rawalpindi police physical remand of 26 men arrested for committing violent acts in Rawalpindi during protests against a film defaming Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

In their written request to the court, the Secretariat SHO said the 52 men were arrested while damaging vehicles, pelting stones and injuring policemen during protests on Friday.

The police officer said 12 motorcycles and two bicycles were damaged, while police vehicles were torched and at least 10 policemen were injured after being hit by stones hurled by rioters. Special Judge ATC-I Chaudhry Habibur Rehman sent the suspects to jail on judicial remand.

At the same time, lawyers from the Rawalpindi Bar Association appeared in court and argued that terrorism charges cannot be levelled against the suspects as they were protesting against a blasphemous film and had not committed any act of terrorism.

However, the judge observed that he could not take a decision like this and asked the lawyers to submit an application. The lawyers then filed post-arrest bail applications for all 52 suspects. The bail pleas will be taken up on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Pirwadhai police produced 26 men before the court of an area magistrate, who gave the suspects to the police in physical remand.

The men, arrested while damaging vehicles and the toll plaza on IJ Principal Road on Friday, were presented in the court by Pirwadhai police Sub Inspector Muhammad Risalat.

When the police produced the alleged rioters in court, members of Tahirul Qadri’s Minhajul Quran (MUQ) took out a protest rally and drove to Islamabad on Benazir Bhutto Road. Protesters riding buses, wagons and Suzuki pickups carried MUQ flags and chanted slogans against the US for not taking action against the creator of the blasphemous film.

Another protest was organised by the burqa-clad students of Jamiya Hafsa, once known for its violent Islamist stance. The students came out on roads in great numbers to denounce the amateur film production that sparked riots across the country on Thursday and Friday.

However the two groups of protestors, while sizable, remained entirely peaceful and did not damage any private of public property.

Overall, nine cases were registered in Islamabad’s police stations, with 52 people arrested by the by the Secretariat police, 10 by the Sabzi Mandi police, 10 by the Industrial Area police, seven by the Aabpara police, and four by the Kohsar police.

Containers stay put

The worst of the protests might be over, but the Islamabad police were not taking any chances. The 50 container that it had placed on various roads leading to the Red Zone to thwart protesters continued to remain in place.

A police official said that the police do not pay owners of the containers for their services. The station house officers are tasked with arranging for the containers. The staff that comes with each container, at least three people including the driver, are given food and accommodation by the police.

Another police official said that even the containers that were turned over were minimally damaged. “These containers are made of solid steel so it is very hard to damage them,” the policeman said. He added that the protesters tried to set fire to one container, but it was put out with partial damage to the tyres of the vehicle.

* With additional input from Umer Nangiana

Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2012.

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