The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) denounced the government for ordering security forces to fire teargas shells and rubber bullets at “women, children and unarmed protesters”.
“If we can protest in front of 10 Downing Street and White House, then why not in our own home. It is a lie that some of the protesters were wielding firearms. No one was armed,” PTI spokesperson Dr Shireen Mazari told Express News.
She claimed the police trapped the protesters and then hit them. “The police first allowed them to enter, cornered them and started shelling and firing rubber bullets,” she said.
“[Imran] Khan Sahib had asked the women to stay back. The women going back from the venue were caught in the melee. [Interior Minister] Chaudhry Nisar stood there like a general ordering fire,” she added. Another PTI leader Asad Umar condemned what he called the ‘brute use of force’ by the police and other law enforcers. He said that nobody from among the protesters provoked the security forces. “One vehicle carrying four MNAs was targeted by the police who started beating it with batons,” he added.
Umar said his party’s chairman had already assured that their protest outside the Prime Minister House would be peaceful. “We wanted to stage a peaceful sit-in, the use of force was totally uncalled for and unwarranted,” he told ExpressNews by phone.
PTI leader Imran Ismail said Chadhry Nisar had led the onslaught against the peaceful protesters. He denied that anyone tried to enter the buildings and provoked the police to resort to force.
MQM chief reacts
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should voluntarily step down and nominate someone else from the party as the prime minister.
“For the sake of peace and democracy, the prime minister should immediately hold a meeting in the assembly and bring in an in-house change by nominating someone else from his party to fill in his shoes,” he said in a statement.
Altaf requested the government not to use force against the PAT protesters and warned that if the government did not show restraint, then the MQM workers would be stepping out on the streets from Karachi to Khyber and to raise voice against the government’s brutal actions. “The law enforcement agencies should not obey government’s orders, which can lead to bloodshed and violence,” he added.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Secretary General Liaquat Baloch called it a sad incident. “We condemn the use of brute force against women and children. It should not have happened. We were afraid that events would lead to extreme steps and wanted both the parties to act with restraint,” he added.
Protest in Lahore
Tempers of PTI activists – protesting at Liberty Roundabout and Lalik Chowk Defence – flared after they witnessed the police firing tear gas shells on projector screens, set to show Imran’s live speech.
Protesters partially blocked Liberty Roundabout and Ghazi Road and chanted slogans against the government. They demanded the government immediately resign or prepare for massive protests. The police blocked all the roads leading towards Liberty Roundabout.
However, the number of protestors increased around 11 pm and they burnt tyres to block the Main Boulevard towards Hafeez Centre. According to media reports, the police had also surrounded the PTI’s Secretariat in Model Town. However, the local police denied the news.
SP Cantonment Muhammad Nadeem said that Ghazi road had been partially blocked by the protesters. “However, as the the protesters are peaceful so no police intervention is required,” he added.
Situation in Karachi
Parts of Karachi remained also tense following the Islamabad showdown as various parties, including the PTI, Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen and Sunni Ittehad Council staged protests in various parts of the city. Protesters set fire to tyres and blocked the vehicular traffic in the main arteries of the city. Both the tracks on Sharea Faisal were closed for traffic by protesters.
They also shouted slogans against the government. Aerial firing was also reported in some areas. However, no untoward incident was reported. Food streets, shops and markets which open late night were also closed following the uncertain situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2014.