Protesters used weapons ‘snatched from police’
LAHORE – Angry protesters snatched away tear-gas guns, shells and had-grenades from policemen during the Faizabad operation in Rawalpindi, a fact-finding report has revealed.
The mob also attacked police and set afire dozens of vehicles – including a police bus, prison vans, motorcycles, and pick-ups – as they went on the rampage in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Gujrat districts.
The revelation comes as a three-member high-powered committee conducted an inquiry to estimate the damages incurred to police properties in Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujrat and Rawalpindi districts.
The country’s top court last week directed the government to find out who provided masks and weapons to the protesters who clashed with the police.
The report titled “detail of police vehicles/ motorcycles /buildings/ furniture and weapons damaged or burnt during the protest of TLYR (Tehreek-Labbik Ya Rasool Allah)” says at least seven separate FIRs were registered with the police in Rawalpindi and Gujrat districts.
“At least two tear-gas guns, 333 shells, and 84 hand-grenades were snatched away” by TLYR protesters in Rawalpindi, the report claims.
The protesters also damaged two pick-ups and two prison vans at Faizabad Chowk. They also set ablaze a police jeep, five pick-ups, seven prison vans, one coaster and one water-browser as violent clashes spread to other cities.
At the Saddar Kharian police station, furniture and computers were badly damaged as the protesters set the building on fire. A police station building was set on fire by mob in Gujrat district while protesters in Lahore destroyed a police bus, a car, two motorcycles and a police facilitation center near Shahdara Chowk.
Earlier, the Punjab Police Inspector General ordered the inquiry with TORs approved by the central police office to assess the damages.
The fact-finding committee is headed by Lahore’s DIG (Investigations) Chaudhry Sultan while SSP Waqas Nazir and SSP Khalid Bashir Cheema are its members. The committee will send back the report to the central police office within days.
According to an official letter issued from the central police office, the committee will also examine the circumstances leading to the damages to the police properties. The officers will also ascertain the factors owing to which the police failed to avert the damages.
As per the TORs, the inquiry officers are required to determine the extent of damages as well as fix responsibility for failure in averting the damage.
The committee will also “recommend future course of action” for the government in order to ensure better planning before handling such a crisis.
Tehreek-Labbik Ya Rasool Allah had called for countrywide protests when the law enforcement agencies launched the security operation to clear the main road bridge between the twin cities after weeks-long sit-in protest.
Initially, the government was reluctant to disperse the protesters citing intelligence reports that many among the protesters were armed.
Later, authorities launched the operation after the Islamabad High Court pressed the government for clearing interchange, as its closure had made life miserable for the citizens. The court also expressed displeasure over handling of the sit-in and aborting the operation.
Reportedly, around 7,500 police and paramilitary troops took part in the operation. The policemen first rounded up the Faizabad Interchange area and used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse agitators. In response, the protesters pelted the police with stones. Later, they also used tear gas shells on the police.
The operation was stopped in the evening when hundreds of other protesters stormed Islamabad through the Express Highway to join the Faizabad agitators. Over 300 people including 175 police were wounded in the clashes.