ISLAMABAD - The Red Zone of the capital remained a battleground for the third consecutive day and the protesters not only attacked PTV building but also succeeded in reaching in front of PM House, where they staged a sit-in.
The majority of the protesters who kept engaged in battling with law enforcers belonged to the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
A small group of PAT workers managed to enter inside the Pakistan Secretariat and were staging a protest sit-in in front of the main gate of the PM House, thus blocking access to it. Rangers’ personnel are deployed in front of PM House gate, very close to the protesters.
Another group of PAT protesters has occupied the main entrance of Pakistan Secretariat, where the offices of a number of key federal ministries – including interior, finance, commerce, Railways – are located. They are not allowing entry of vehicles except those of Rangers and armed forces.
The office work at the secretariat remained approximately nil on Monday too due to clashes. Now that protesters are sitting on the main gate, opening the offices will not be possible today (Tuesday) and this would badly affect the work of the federal government.
The clashes continued by fits and starts throughout the day. As many as 85 more persons were injured and taken to hospitals on Monday, bringing the total toll to over 700. However, no death was reported.
The 30 wounded police personnel included Islamabad SSP (Operations) Asmatullah Junejo and his staff officer. They were injured during a scuffle with the protesters, mostly from PAT and some from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), who were trying to enter the main gate of Pakistan Secretariat.
The police baton charged protesters and used few tear gas shells to disperse them while the protesters pelted police with stones. A number of vehicles parked in the parking area of Pakistan Secretariat were badly damaged by the protests. Dozens of ambulances kept busy in shifting the injured to the hospitals. Some of the protesters looked reluctant to go to hospitals amid rumours of arrests.
The clashes started when protesters, taking benefit of heavy rain in the morning, started moving towards main entrance of Pakistan Secretariat and were challenged by police. The stone throwing protesters were in an advantageous position as teargas shells did not work due to rain. They succeeded in pushing police from Constitution Avenue to the Margalla Road.
Some protesters meanwhile entered in Pakistan Secretariat premises and tried to enter the main gates of two blocks that house offices of ministries. But the armed troops deployed there asked them not to enter those buildings and they listened to them.
In the meantime, some protesters entered the main gate of the Pakistan Television (PTV) building and got suspended the main transmission of the only state-owned channel, which the independent observers termed as a symbolic coup.
First the protesters went to the PTV cafeteria and then entered newsrooms of PTV News and PTV World. They thrashed cafeteria staff black and blue and took away eateries. They also tore down posters of PM hanging on the walls and wrote down slogans of ‘Revolution...Revolution’ on the vehicles parked there.
A PTV employee said protesters stayed in the building for around an hour till the Rangers and Army troops reached there. The soldiers requested them to vacate the building and they left within minutes while raising slogans in favour of Army, a security guard said.
During the whole saga, PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri first endorsed the act and then disowned it. “Our workers have gone to the Pakistan Secretariat and PTV building and the PM should now resign,“ Khan announced. Then Qadri said his workers had reached PM House and PTV building. After an hour, they both denied it, calling attack on PTV an act of general public and not of their activists.
Information Minister Pervez Rasheed condemned attack on PTV building, calling it a barbaric act. He said Imran and Qadri could not absolve themselves of this act of violence and vandalism. PTV MD Abdul Malick told a private TV that protesters had not only broken cameras and other equipment but also attacked and injured some of the employees.
The containers of Dr Qadri and Imran Khan are still parked in front of Cabinet Division’s main gate, few meters from Pakistan Secretariat, where they continued addressing their workers off and on. However, early in the night, Khan left his container and did not turn up till midnight. A PTI source said he had gone for physical exercise.
The police continued registering difference cases of arson and violence against PTI and PAT workers in different police stations and made some arrests.
In a late night development, PTI chief Imran Khan held consultations with the senior leadership of the party at his Bani Gala residence on the emerging political situation after the allegations of Makhdoom Javed Hashmi. According to party sources, Khan will put his point of view before his supporters in connection with the allegations of Hashmi.