Seven supporters of anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri were killed and over 200 injured in Pakistan as they clashed with security forces and took seven policemen hostage in different parts of Punjab province ahead of the anti-government march of the Canada-based Pakistani cleric.
Fighting between security forces and supporters of Qadri, who has vowed to lead a "revolution" against the Nawaz Sharif government, began yesterday and continued today as police blocked roads to Lahore to stop the religious leader's planned rally against the government. Qadri, chief of Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), has announced that his group will hold a "Martyrs' Day" tomorrow in protest of the killings of his 14 activists in a police attack at the party headquarters in Model Town on June 17. Qadri has said that he will also announce the date for his 'Inqlabi March' tomorrow.
The clashes broke when Qadri's supporters tried to remove containers used by police as roadblocks to prevent them to attend the PAT's martyrs' day at the cleric's residence. "Our seven party workers were killed in the police brutality. Today, five workers of Pakistan Awami Tahreek were killed when police opened fire on them in Gujranwala district while two died yesterday in Bhakkar district," PAT spokesman Qazi Faiz said.
Punjab police have, however, confirmed the death of four people in the clashes. Faiz said police have blocked all roads leading to Lahore to stop PAT caravans. "Police have arrested over 6,000 workers of our party across Punjab so far. The police are also picking up women from their houses," he alleged.
At least 105 policemen were also injured in clashes with the PAT workers, Punjab police spokesman Nabila Ghazanfar said. Nabila said that PAT workers attacked policemen, tore their uniform and torched their helmets and vehicles. About arrests, she said police have arrested over 500 PAT workers in Punjab today.
In Lahore, the PAT workers took seven policemen hostage. "Yes, we have taken seven policemen to Qadri sahib to convince them that what they are doing is wrong," Faiz said.
Meanwhile, police said they are negotiating with the PAT leadership for the release of the policemen.