Feb 27, 2009

Protesters bring life to a halt

Charges protesters burnt vehicles and tyres as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) observed countrywide protests on Thursday by holding demonstrations and staging rallies against the disqualification of the Sharif brothers and the imposition of governor’s rule in Punjab.Nawaz Sharif had given a call for nationwide protests. Most shopping centres in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura and other parts of the province remained closed. Lawyers and traders also joined the demonstrations.Lawyers boycotted courts and held protest demonstrations by burning tyres and chanting slogans against President Asif Ali Zardari, accusing him of ‘planning’ the disqualification of the Sharif brothers.The angry PML-N workers blocked main roads in the federal capital and its twin city Rawalpindi. The newly constructed Islamabad Highway and Murree Road presented scenes of a battlefield where hide and seek between police and protestors continued till the night.The charged activists set ablaze six vehicles including a police van near Kurri on the Islamabad Expressway. The disturbance on the expressway stared in the morning when students of local colleges blocked the road between Zero Point and Faizabad.Later, the protest spread and the PML-N activists blocked the expressway at other points also. The police fired teargas shells but the protestors regrouped and attacked the police. In Rawalpindi, the protestors attacked Lal Haveli, the residence of Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid. However, they dispersed when the police arrived at the scene. In Islamabad the biggest protest demonstration was held at Aabpara Chowk. Local MNAs Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Anjum Aqeel Khan and Senator-elect Zafar Ali Shah addressed the rally.The protest rally in Rawalpindi started from Bohr Bazaar. On reaching Committee Chowk, the protestors were addressed by Senator-elect Najma Hameed and members of the National Assembly Hanif Abbasi and Haji Parvaiz Khan. The PML-N parliamentarians said the verdict given by the PCO judges was not acceptable to them and they would continue their protest against it. Meanwhile, the PML-N has given a call for sit-in outside the main mosques all over the country after Friday prayers today. According party’s general secretary Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, the PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haque will stage sit-in outside Idara-e-Talimul Quraan in Raja Bazaar, Rawalpindi. Angry demonstrators virtually paralysed the federal capital to register their protest against the disqualification of the Sharif brothers.Additional Deputy Commissioner (West) Malik Afsar, Daily Jang photographer Jahangir Khan, police officials Nasir Hashmi and Noor-ul-Wahab were among 12 who were wounded and shifted to the PIMS and the Poly Clinic. At least 10 vehicles, including the cars of top officers of the district administration and police were burnt down on the Islamabad Highway. The official cars of deputy commissioner, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Islamabad, additional deputy commissioner general (ADCG) and additional deputy commissioner (ADC) West as well as jeeps of DSP (Shahzad Town) and SHO were torched. Banks, petrol pumps, government and private property and vehicles were damaged.Many police and administration officials, including ADC (West) Malik Afsar, sustained injuries and were rushed to nearby hospitals. Malik Afsar was shifted to PIMS in critical condition. APP adds: An FIR was registered against 60 unidentified people for the burning of the temporary monument set up by PPP workers at the martyrdom place of Benazir Bhutto at Liaquat Bagh. Sources said the FIR was registered with the City Police Station on the directives of the higher authorities.Jawwad Rizvi adds from Lahore: Traders of the provincial metropolis observed complete shutdown against Sharif brothers’ disqualifications. The News surveyed various markets of the city and found that all major business centres had observed complete shutdown while the residential areas shops were opened. Interestingly, the Qaumi Tajir Ittehad remained silent on this issue. The PML-N leadership has not asked the traders community to observe strike but traders themselves went on strike to show solidarity with the Sharif brothers.Addressing a group of traders, All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran President Haji Maqsood said the Thursday’s successful strike was enough to make it clear upon the government that it could not take such decisions anymore. He said that this decision was against the wishes of the people. AFP\Online add: Police sealed off the Governor’s House but thousands of people stormed the barricades for a sit-in. A crowd of up to 5,000 protesters torched two large hoardings showing Governor Salman Taseer and beat pictures of Zardari with sticks and shoes before setting them ablaze. Police briefly detained about 30 lawmakers outside the Punjab Assembly. The government called in Rangers in various districts of Punjab to maintain law and order. Sources said the government had decided to deploy Rangers outside the Punjab Assembly building.Our other correspondents and news agencies add: Demonstrations were also held in Multan, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Quetta, Peshawar and many other cities of the Punjab.

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