On the defensive: Police fail to protect red-lines in Red Zone

Law enforcers chased out by mob, while army kept protesters at bay.

Fawad Ali September 02, 2014


Despite the presence of 30,000 policemen, as well as scores of Frontier Constabulary and Rangers personnel, protesting marchers entered the Prime Minister’s Secretariat on the third day of violent clashes on Constitution Avenue. However, the protesters only listened to the army deployed outside some buildings.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers crossed the so-called red lines in the Red Zone, which were breaching out-of-bound buildings, such as the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Pakistan Television and Parliament House.

The clashes started afresh Monday morning when PAT supporters along with a few PTI workers started moving towards the secretariat. The disorganised police force did clash with the protesters by firing rubber bullets and tear gas shells, but they failed to restore order. Moreover, due to the rain, the teargas did not work.

“Rain rendered the teargas shells ineffective due to which the police could not face the attacking protesters. Besides, we had a defensive strategy,” said a senior police officer who was present at the scene. He also categorically denied the use of lethal weapons.

He showed a video, recorded by a foreign TV channel, in which around a dozen security guards of PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri and PTI chairman Imran Khan were holding sophisticated weapons.

Additional Inspector General (General) Sabir Ahmad said that in such a situation, the security guard of an SP-level officer is allowed to keep a pistol but not the police. None of the police officers or security personnel, excluding army troops, carried lethal weapons, he pointed out.

And so the police began to suffer as, instead of preventing protesters – ‘armed’ with wooden sticks – from moving towards state buildings, they turned the other way and ran. Soon, protesters turned into rioters who beat policemen and pelted them with stones.

SSP Operations Asmatullah Junejo, who was given charge of the riot police a day earlier, was seriously injured when he was overpowered by the mob after some of his policemen fled from the scene.

Although he was rescued, he was beaten severely and sustained head injuries and other wounds on the rest of his body. He, nevertheless, stayed on and tried to organise the dispersing police and FC personnel, but to no avail.

Thereafter, the mob entered the PM Secretariat gate and there was no one to stop them as the police escaped towards Margalla Road, a kilometre away.

When the protesters broke into the building of state-run broadcaster Pakistan Television (PTV) headquarters there were no police or army personnel to stop them there either.

After the brief occupation of PTV headquarters, many protesters reached Kohsar Complex, the last building on Constitution Avenue. They were running after the police and erected a barrier by breaking fences on the green belt. They entered Pakistan Secretariat, which houses the ministries of interior, planning commission, railways and other important state buildings.

The protesters also tried to break into buildings of various ministries but stopped short only after soldiers signalled them to stop – they saluted and kissed the hands of soldiers.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2014.


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