Qadri supporters’ protest continues

ISLAMABAD: Army troops were deployed on the streets of capital Islamabad Sunday after thousands of stone-throwing supporters of Mumtaz Qadri forced their entry into the Red Zone for reaching the Parliament House.
Instigated by religious leaders at a ‘conference’ held in Rawalpindi on the occasion of Chehlum of Qadri by a number of religious parties, they forced their entry in the nearby capital – clashing with police and other law enforcers on the way.
Police guard Mumtaz Qadri was executed on February 29 for killing Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer over his call for reforms in blasphemy laws of the country to prevent their misuse.
Police-protesters clashes took place at a number of places in the twin cities, but the most violent ones came on the Murree Road and in the Red Zone. The raging protesters set ablaze seven shipping containers and a CDA fire brigade vehicle at D Chowk while the last terminal of Metro bus station [near D Chowk] was also damaged.
Hospital sources said the clashes resulted in injuries to 13 FC, 11 Rangers and 17 police personnel, besides 19 civilians. CPO Israr Abassi and DSPs Mirza Zaman and Warish Khan were among the injured.
Earlier in the day, thousands of activists of religious parties, coming from different cities, attended the conference at Rawalpindi’s in Liaqat Bagh to remember Mumtaz Qadri.
A religious figure, ‘Maulana’ Ashraf Asif Jalali, announced at the stage that if the government did not accept their demands, they would march towards the Parliament House in Islamabad. Sarwat Qadri, leader of Sunni Tehreek, also urged the activists to march towards the parliament building.
Their demands included: imposition of Nizam-e-Mustafa (Sharia law) in Pakistan, official declaration of martyrdom for Mumtaz Qadri, no amendment in blasphemy laws, immediate execution of all people blasphemy convicts – especially convicted Christian girl Asia Bibi, release of people arrested in connection with Namos-e-Rasalat movement, and removal from government posts of Ahmedis – members of a religious minority.
Charged by the fiery speeches, thousands of attendees started marching towards Islamabad after conclusion of the conference around 2pm.
Pitched battles ensued when Rawalpindi police tried to arrest the march of protesters at Chandni Chowk on Murree Road. The square became a battleground as the police used tear gas and resorted to baton charge the protesters, who responded by pelting the police with stones.
Being in much bigger numbers than policemen, hundreds of protesters succeeded in crossing the police cordon and reached Islamabad as there was no deployment of law enforcement agencies at Faizabad.
The mob was confronted by Islamabad police as it advanced towards the Constitution Avenue. Police used batons and fired tear gas shells at the ferocious marchers who went on to torch shipping containers placed to stop their march and bushes in the green area around the parliament house. They continued pelting stones at the law enforcers forcing them to leave their positions repeatedly.
Police however managed to stop the protestors’ march towards parliament building who then set up a sit in camp at D Chowk. But situation remained highly tense till the filing of this report around midnight.
Part of Islamabad Expressway from Faizabad to Zero Point was blocked. Kashmir Chowk towards Serena was also blocked from all directions.
PIMS (hospital) remains on high alert. The hospital officials said that emergency beds have been vacated and the doctors, nurses and paramedical staff in the hospital were asked to treat any emergency.
ICT administration has also summoned military in aid of civil power to maintain law and order situation in the Red Zone. An army contingent has already been there since the PTI sit-in of 2014. Over 300 army personnel are stationed in the capital for the protection of sensitive installations. They are requisitioned every 90 days.
During the rough day, worst kind of traffic jam was seen on Islamabad Expressway and other roads. Though it was a public holiday, the road-users faced difficulty in reaching their destinations due to the road closures caused by clashes. Staff Reporter