Showdown in Islamabad

Islamabad reaching a boiling point after police attacked peaceful protestors from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek.

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Police attacking protestors from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek. Credit: AFP

Police attacked the peaceful protestors of two political parties without any provocation. The course of events that followed, from last night onwards, have exposed the brutality of the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The protestors belonged from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). Last general elections held in Pakistan in May 2013 were massively rigged. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence available to prove the rigging claims.

PTI was protesting against election riggings. PAT wanted to overhaul the corrupt democratic structure of Pakistan. On Jun 17, 2014, the headquarters of PAT were raided by Punjab police and 14 people were killed in broad daylight. PAT was therefore protesting for overhauling the system as well as demanding justice for its slain activists.

Pakistan’s independence day on August 14 was the day when the protest marches of both parties left Lahore for Islamabad. They reached Islamabad late night on August 15. Since then both parties organized peaceful sit-ins in Islamabad. Last night both PTI and PAT announced to move the sit-ins outside Prime Minister House. As the protestors were peacefully moving towards their destination, the police attacked them without any provocation by protestors.

Police attacked the protestors with mostly expired tear gas shells, rubber bullets, and in some cases steel bullets.

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Credit: PTI Official

As I write these lines, the police brutality continues unabated. Over 400 people including policemen have been injured as a result of the clash between protestors. The social media teams of PTI and PAT have dubbed the police brutality on Twitter as #IslamabadMassacre.

According to official claims, only three protesters have died so far. However, according to the claims of PAT up to 10 of their activists have died as a result of police brutality. The government claims that protestors wanted to enter the president house and that’s why the police reacted and clashes erupted. The accounts of media persons and other credible sources refute this claim. According to an analyst, Wajahat S. Khan, who quoted army officials, the protestors were peaceful and they didn’t provoke police in any way. Accounts of many other media personnel corroborate the claims made by Wajahat S. Khan.

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The worst part about the entire episode is the attack on media personnel by police. Police attacked the DSNG vans of at least 7 news channels; ARY News, Dawn News, Aaj Tv, Jaag Tv, Express News, Dunya News and Samaa News.

Police dragged the staff of these channels from the DSNG vans and brutally tortured them. According to the media persons, the attack was carried out to force the media to stop live coverage of police brutality against protestors of PAT and PTI. It’s interesting to share that the correspondents of Pakistan’s largest private news channel GEO News were not attacked. The reason being, that GEO News is reporting in favor of government in complete contravention of all journalistic norms.

In order to justify attacks on media teams, Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal claimed that police had information that protestors were hiding in DSNG vans of news channels. Khawja Saad Rafique, another federal minister, claimed that attacks on media by police was a conspiracy against the government. It’s obvious that the government is doing damage control after the police brutality against journalists was caught on tape and broadcast to the world.

The prime minister is conveniently watching the entire show from his palace in Raiwand, far away from the capital. The government has entirely failed in dealing with the peaceful protestors whose cause was justified but one can question their methods. Let’s not forget that both PTI and PAT are political parties and they will play up the emotions for their political advantage. Notwithstanding that fact, the police brutality against the peaceful protestors is unacceptable and condemnable in strongest possible terms.

The showdown in capital of Pakistan has exposed many faces. Asma Jehangir, a respected human rights activist, was vigorously defending the police tactics adopted against the protestors of PAT and PTI. Other liberal and progressive activists and media persons were seen defending the police brutality in the name of defending democracy. The prime minister has spread the disinformation that army is behind the protests of PTI and PAT and many people have bought in the propaganda. What’s happening now in Islamabad is a black chapter in history of Pakistan.

Adnan Aamir is a freelance researcher, analyst and columnist. Adnan is also editor of The Balochistan Point, an online newspaper from Pakistan. Follow him on Twitter @iAdnanAamir and visit his blog http://www.adnan-aamir.com. Read other articles by Adnan.