Workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) fought pitched battles on the streets and roads of Faisalabad throughout Monday on the first leg of Imran Khan’s ‘Plan-C’ which envisages shutdown of major cities followed by a nationwide paralysis.
One PTI activist was killed and nearly two dozen people – among them policemen – were wounded, three of them critically, as hundreds of PTI activists clashed with riot police armed with water cannon, teargas shells and clubs in different neighbourhoods of this industrial city, especially at Novelty Bridge.
The PTI announced a countrywide day of mourning on Tuesday as the news of its worker’s killing sparked protests in major cities of the country, including Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad and Quetta. Enraged PTI workers shouted slogans against the government and burnt tyres on main roads, snarling up traffic in these cities.
The PTI had given a call for a shutdown in Faisalabad on December 8 as part of its ‘Plan-C’. Until 11am, the city was calm and peaceful as all eight main marketplaces – Circular Road, Kotwali Road, Sammundri Road, Sargodha Road, Sitiana Road and Jhang Road – were open and so were all educational institutions of the city.
Then groups of PML-N workers, carrying party flags and photos of the Sharif brothers, appeared on the roads. They took control of Clock Tower Chowk, Circular Road, Kotwali Road and Faisalabad-Jaranwala Road. They were shouting ‘Ro Imran, Ro (Cry Imran, Cry)’ to vent their anger at the PTI chief whose party has coined the slogan of ‘Go Nawaz, Go’.
The PML-N workers were charged up and armed with clubs and hockey sticks. They were also carrying bags full of tomatoes and eggs. They removed the banners and posters festooned by PTI activists in different neighbourhoods of the city. The banners and posters were then set alight on the streets.
The city became tense after 11am when hundreds of PTI workers, including women, staged sit-ins as per a schedule announced by their party at nine key locations of the city, including Gattwala, Nishatabad, Akbar Chowk, PMC Chowk, Novelty Bridge, Jinnah Colony Gates, Chenab Chowk, Abdullah Pur Chowk and Jhall Khannuana Chowk.
Clashes started at Clock Tower Chowk which was already taken over by PML-N workers. When PTI activists reached the roundabout the two sides had a sloganeering contest followed by a physical fight. After a brief melee, the PML-N workers were forced to flee.
At Allied Morr, PML-N workers tore down banners and posters of the PTI, triggering a similar response from Imran’s supporters who burnt down the posters and banners of the PML-N. This was followed by clashes between the two sides as they used sticks, bricks and stones against each other. Similar scuffles were witnessed at Millat Chowk. Around six people were wounded in these clashes.
The main battleground was Novelty Chowk where clashes started when PML-N workers tried to smash a PTI demonstration. The residence of former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah is situated near Novelty Chowk where crowds of PML-N workers were gathered, though police commandoes were already standing guard at the residence which was secured with barbed wire.
PTI supporters tried to storm Sanaullah’s residence several times – but each time they were pushed back by PML-N workers who threw stones and bricks at the PTI activists. Riot police also baton-charged and hurled teargas shells at the PTI supporters to stop them from marching towards Sanaullah’s residence.
At least 14 people, among them three policemen, were injured in the melee and were driven to the Allied Hospital.
Police also used water cannon to disperse PTI and PML-N workers, but couldn’t disengage the two sides. It was at this point that PML-N workers resorted to indiscriminate firing which claimed the life of a young PTI worker identified as Haq Nawaz.
The fatality whipped up tension in the entire city as shopkeepers started pulling down their shutters and commuters rushed to their homes, resulting in traffic snarl-ups on different arteries of the city. Clashes between PML-N and PTI activists continued till Imran Khan reached D-Type Chowk in Faisalabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2014.