LAHORE:Â Eight people â€“ including two women â€“ were killed while 85 others sustained injuries in a clash between the supporters of Dr Tahirul Qadri and police in Lahore,Express NewsÂ reported on Tuesday.
The fight started last night when members of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) tried to stop police from removing barriers outside their leaderâ€™s house in Model Town Colony and party secretariat.Â Police baton-charged and shelled the demonstrators for not letting them do their job.
Around 53 protesters were also arrested for creating trouble.
The injured â€“ 22 of whom are in critical condition â€“ were shifted to a hospital for medical treatment. According to hospital sources, the injured also include 17 police personnel.
Police today managed to remove all the barriers despite intense opposition, while anti-encroachment officials are busy clearing the area and removing the rubble. Police personnel are present in the locality to monitor the work and ensure protesters are kept under control.
The PAT protesters later moved to the hospital where their fellow supporters were admitted for medical assistance.
Taking notice of the incident, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation.
Sources told Express News that the chief minister was not taken into confidence before police started the operation to remove barriers outside Qadriâ€™s house and party secretariat.
As per previous court orders, blocking streets for security reasons is not allowed and police should remove such blockages.
District Minister Rana Mashoud said the road blockages outside Qadriâ€™s house were being removed on complaints filed by the residents of Model Town Colony.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, while speaking to the media in Lahore, said that the barriers outside Qadriâ€™s house and party secretariat were removed after government received information from intelligence agencies about the presence of armed men in the area.
He added that the private militia had made it a no go area and no one in Punjab is allowed to do so.
While speaking inside the Punjab Assembly, where the opposition members protested against the use of force, Sanullah claimed the police action was inevitable as they were reports of militiamen taking oath for working on an unidentified operation.
The law minister further said the provincial government will carry out a judicial inquiry into the incident and those found guilty of unlawful actions will be punished.
Informing the assembly about cases being filed against a few senior PAT leaders for their involvement in the clash with the police, Sanaullah claimed that police were fired at from inside the PAT secretariat.
Responding to the use of force against his party workers, Qadri said he protests police brutality against the â€œpeacefulâ€ demonstrators.
While speaking to Express News, Qadri said the police action was unjustifiable as the barriers were placed on governmentâ€™s order many years ago.
Accusing police of harassing PAT supporters prior to his visit to Pakistan, Qadri stressed he will arrive in the country as scheduled.
The PAT leader also claimed the total number of casualties was higher than the official figure.
Confirming the death toll, Secretary General PAT Khurram Nawaz Gandapur said two women and a child were among the deceased. He further claimed the police operation was not to remove the barriers but to threaten and harass PAT supporters.
PAT supporters staged protests in different parts of the country including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Karachi and other cities.
Protesters blocked roads in the twin cities, affecting the flow of traffic. A human chain was formed in Gujranwala while party members also demonstrated in Sialkot, Hafizabad and Multan.
Traders association in Lahore also announced a strike in the city. Economic activity will be suspended tomorrow in protest against the deaths.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami Muslim League, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League â€“ Quaid condemned the attack, while MQM also announced a day of mourning against the incident.
Qadri supporters, police clash in Lahore by TheExpressNews