ISLAMABAD - Protesting against desecration of their holly book, a handful of Sikhs broke the gate of parliament building early Friday morning and interrupted the House business.
“Around a dozen of Sikh protesters broke the gate of parliament on Friday. It was a major security lapse and I take responsibility as head of ICT police,” Aftab Cheema, Inspector general of Islamabad Police told the media following the incident. He refrained from going into details of the incident.
Protesters aren’t allowed in red zone, which is home to sensitive buildings including parliament, Prime Minister House and President House, Supreme Court and Prime Minister Office.
Large number of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) police personnel remains on high alert in the red zone to keep the terrorists at a bay. However, the breach of security by unarmed Sikh protesters in this most sensitive place comes as a slap in the face of police authorities.
Eyewitnesses said around a dozen of heavily built and aggressive Sikhs reached at the front gate of the parliament house, breaching high security. They were protesting against desecration of their holly book. After almost an hour of high drama, Leader of House Senator Raja Zafarul Haq held meetings with the Sikh protesters and convinced them to call off their protest.
The first attempt of Sikh protesters to enter the premises of parliament, where proceedings of Senate were going on, was failed by security officials deputed at the main entrance. But the enraged protesters stormed the gate once again and forced entry into the premises, breaking through the main gate.
“It appeared to me that parliament building was under attack. I could see a dozen of long bearded people with turbans on their heads pushing back the security men and rushing towards the main building,“ Sikander Bakht, told The Nation. “The very first thought that came to my mind was that these people might be from the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan).”
A security official deputed at the main gate endorsed Sikander’s point and said the protesters overpowered the security staff and forced their entry into the parliament premises. “It all happened in few seconds. Protesters got hold of us all and rushed towards the main building,” A sub Inspector told the Nation on condition of anonymity. He added that security staff deputed at the main gate brought the situation in notice of their immediate bosses but they did not get any clear orders to disperse the protesters.
Officials said the protesters, after breaking the main gate, marched towards the main building of parliament where a number of senators were holding press briefing. Having come to know that parliament building was under attack, the senators and hundreds of officials were panicked. A wave of fear was felt among the senators and the officials working in the parliament House. Some of the officials who spoke with this correspondent said they were under the impression that parliament was under attack by militants.
“I was busy in routine work when I learnt about entrance of terrorists inside the building. Everyone was panicked,” a senior official at the Parliament House said. As reports of security breach by a group of unauthorised people reached the senators, most of them thought it was a militant attack while few of them got the impression that army has taken over.
Senior correspondent for this newspaper Inamullah Khattak, who was there to cover Senate proceedings, said the senators looked worried for some time after coming to know that something wrong was going on there.
“Senator looked quite scared after they got to know a violent mob had penetrated deep into the parliament building. For more than an hour, the senators and Parliament House staff remained confined to their chambers and were advised not to leave the building until the situation comes to normalcy,” Khattak said.
Later in the day, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali chaired a high level meeting of Islamabad administration and police to review security situation in the capital here today. The minister took strong notice of the incident and directed for immediate suspension and charge-sheeting of one SP, three DSPs and three SHOs who were held responsible for the security lapse.
“The minister asked the IGP to inculcate a perception in the mind of every person in uniform that he should be as vigilant and responsible as if the entire security of the city depends on him,” a press note issue from Nisar’s office stated. According to it, the minister directed that Rapid Response Force consisting of Islamabad and Rawalpindi police as well as Rangers will patrol in the twin cities round the clock.
Islamabad DC and SSP Operations informed the minister that district administration and police had allowed the Sikhs under a negotiated understanding to hold a protest demonstration in front of the Islamabad Press Club. However, at the last moment, seeing the focus of Islamabad police on the PTI rally, the Sikh rally violated that understanding and started running towards the Parliament. Nadra Chairman informed the minister that work on a Command Centre under the Safe City Project would start next month and would be ready by end of September.