LAHORE: Pakistani police said yesterday they had filed terrorism charges against followers of a prominent preacher and anti-government critic, including his son, following clashes with the group in the eastern city of Lahore.
Eight people were killed when Pakistani riot police armed with assault rifles clashed with supporters of cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who lives in Canada but is due to come to Pakistan by the end of the month.
“There is one case against 54 including Doctor Tahir-ul-Qadri’s son Doctor Hassan Mohiuddin and 3,000 unknown people under the charges of terrorism, murder, riots and attack on police,” Zulfiqar Cheema, senior police official said.
Police said the clashes began when they went to remove what they called illegal security barricades from the offices of Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek, meaning “Pakistan People’s Movement”, in the city’s Model Town suburb on Monday night.
The violence came as Pakistan’s military is engaged in a major offensive against Taliban militants in the restive northwest, and could put political pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government at a delicate moment.
The religiously moderate cleric has a large following in Pakistan. But some analysts believe he is also supported by the country’s powerful military establishment to keep civilian authorities in check.