ISLAMABAD: At least eight people were killed and 85 injured in Lahore on Tuesday when the police clashed with supporters of moderate cleric Dr Tahirul Qadri, a Canadian national of Pakistani origin, vowing to bring a soft revolution in the country.
Qadri, a leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), a religiopolitical party, has been trying to form a grand alliance against the government while demanding a change in the present system through a revolution. He has promised to return to Pakistan on June 23.
The clashes started when PAT members tried to stop the police from removing barriers outside their leader’s house in Lahore’s Model Town Colony and the party secretariat. As police baton-charged and shelled the protesters, the latter retaliated by pelting stones.
Meanwhile, the police started firing shots at the protesters, leading to the death of eight PAT supporters, including two women and a child, while more than 85 people were injured. “We received eight dead bodies including two women,” said Dr Abdul Rauf, a medical superintendent at Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital.
“All of them had bullet wounds. We also received 85 injured, including 17 police personnel. About 40 of the wounded sustained bullet injuries.” The doctor said 22 of the injured were critical. A spokesman for PAT said 12 of its workers were killed.
“They launched this operation to counter our peaceful movement and the ‘green revolution’ promised by Dr Tahir ul Qadri,” the spokesman said Responding to the use of force against his party workers, the PAT chief described it as “state terrorism” and lashed out at the Punjab government, saying an FIR would be registered against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif for the brutal killing of his supporters.
Qadri said the police took action, on the orders of the government, because of his support for the army during the ongoing operation in North Waziristan. “Anyone who stands in support of the army is seen by the government as their biggest enemy,” he said, adding the government had been against the military since the 1990s.
“The government was never in favour of the army operation in North Waziristan and had to approve it since they had no choice,” he said. PAT supporters staged protests in different cities — including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Karachi, Sialkot and Multan. All political parties strongly condemned the Lahore clashes. A joint opposition also staged a token walk out from Parliament.
Opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah said it was a conspiracy against democracy, which he said was allegedly hatched by Shahbaz Sharif against his elder brother. Later, the Punjab CM addressed a press conference saying he would resign if found responsible for the violence. “The deaths in Lahore’s Model Town are unfortunate,” Shahbaz Sharif said. “I have ordered the formation of a judicial commission to probe the incident.”