Skirmishes between protesters and security personnel continued on Sunday with police firing teargas canisters and protesters pelting stones in the Red Zone.
The area presented a scene of battleground. Police used heavy teargas and rubber bullets to stop Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers from marching on the Prime Minister’s House and other sensitive buildings.
Sporadic clashes were continuing between police and the protesters till filing of this report late Sunday. Many of the protesters were armed with batons and slingshots.
At least three people were dead and 700 others injured, including at least 118 women and 10 children, according to officials. At least 92 police were among the wounded.
Several vehicles, including police van and shipping containers were set ablaze, and hundreds of tear gas canisters lay strewn on the ground on Islamabad’s normally pristine Constitution Avenue following more than 18 hours of battle.
Some protesters gathered outside the Kulsoom Hospital and the Polyclinic and chanted slogans against the government but the police dispersed them.
The violence erupted late Saturday and continued Sunday after the protesters marched from outside parliament building to the prime minister’s house, where some attempted to remove barricades around it with cranes.
Some of the protesters were carrying axes, wire cutters, hammers, batons, iron rods and sling-shots.
As the marchers advanced towards the cabinet block, police and other security personnel first allowed them but when they reached the cabinet division building, the police started using tear gas and rubbers bullets to push them back, forcing them to retreat to the Parade Avenue.
Stick and club-wielding PAT workers, in the meanwhile, started removing roadblocks and shipping containers from the road leading to the presidency with the help of a crane. But the police intensified the gas shelling, forcing the marchers to retreat, only to regroup to advance.
In the meanwhile, many protesters including children, women and elderly men started feeling the pinch of tear gas effects and settled down on sidewalks and the greenbelt. Some of the protesters turned violent and attacked the security officials with batons, sticks, stones and slingshots.
The police used hundreds of teargas canisters and rubber bullets when the situation got out of control.
The PAT workers also remained engaged in rescuing those most affected by the teargas by shifting them into vehicles parked near the Parliament Lodges to further shift them to hospitals. Others distributed salt, water and wet towels among the protesters to reduce the effects of the teargas.
Around 12am, a large number of protesters and a few policemen got injured during the clash.
After a brief respite, the protesters regrouped on the Parade Avenue and the hide and seek between the police and the protesters continued till 1pm.
This was the time, when the peaceful exit to the protesters was denied by the law security police, and they vent their anger on whoever came on their way by using batons.
While the injured were being shifted to the hospitals, news started to pour in that the authorities have ordered to arrest the protesters with minor injuries. The news caused panic among the injured and many of them reportedly left the hospitals with broken arms, legs and injuries.
Sporadic clashes also continued on Sunday with several media persons, a large number of protesters and security getting injured.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2014.