Police On The Frontlines Against Violent Protests
Violent and aggression laden protests continued for a third day as supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) called for the release of party chief Allama Saad Hussain Rizvi. While Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to issue a statement and Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed gave paltry assurance of amicable resolution, Pakistan’s police stood tall and firm in light of impending danger. The police were abandoned on the streets, as no large scale operation was agreed upon by the government to quell increasingly violent protests.
The police were left with the single objective of maintaining semblance of Law & Order by curbing violence and removing roadblocks wherever possible in their limited capacity. Despite modest successes, the opposite ensued: emotionally charged protestors, outnumbering police personnel, attacked several members of the police force. Harrowing images of policemen in TLP’s captivity emerged, alongside videos of rioters dragging police constables by scruff of their necks. Videos of police individuals subjugated to TLP rioters did rounds, including that of an SHO, who was captured by protestors in Khanewal. Per police estimates, 300 policemen were injured in the process of removing traffic blocks and stopping the destruction public property by rioters.
In Lahore, another devastating incident of this round of TLP onslaught occurred. Protesters beat a police constable to death during a clash in Shahdara, according to spokesperson Rana Arif. Shahdara police registered a First Information Report against TLP personnel for killing the police constable. This incident occurred in addition to that of Constable Muhammad Afzal, who was beaten to death a day earlier and laid to rest at Qilla Gujar lines. Despite this, there was no statement from cabinet members, the Prime Minister or Chief of Army Staff expressing solidarity with the victims’ family.
The Prime Minister’s silence stands in stark contrast to some of his earlier statements on protests, especially, when he stated he won’t be blackmailed into visiting peaceful Hazara protestors. Similarly, TLP’s aggression was unequivocally supported by current Interior Minister, Sheikh Rasheed prior to their 2017 dharna. Both individuals have refrained from outlining plan of action to counter this wave, which has halted transport and disrupted public life.
Speaking to Naya Daur Media, a retired senior ranking police official from Punjab said these events were demoralising for the institution. They added that while the Police has never shied away from fulfilling its responsibilities, it seems there is no clear instruction from the government to use blunt force to dismantle protests or carrying out a province wide crackdown. It was said that the right mandate and reinforcements could enable police to take decisive action against protestors responsible for dishevelling law and order.
Watch: Policemen being forced to chant Labbaik slogans by TLP rioters pic.twitter.com/1XK5EuiGSF
— Naya Daur Media (@nayadaurpk) April 13, 2021
Another serving senior police officer refused to comment due to sensitivity of the issue plaguing law enforcement. Despite attempts, DIG Operations Lahore was unavailable for comment on these developments as well.
It is important to note that police personnel have laid their lives in big numbers during the era of terrorist attacks that jolted Pakistan.
The writer is co-founder Future of Pakistan Conference and a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science.