LAHORE – Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammad Habib-ur-Rehman on Thursday ordered the police to ensure protection of human life, as well as public and private property, at all costs and deal sternly with the miscreants involved in vandalism during protest demonstrations against loadshedding. The provincial police chief issued these instructions at the Central Police Office, a police spokesperson said.

Emphasising that peaceful demonstrations were the fundamental right of citizens, the IGP said it was the responsibility of the law-enforcement agency to ensure safety of human life, as well as public and private property.

The provincial police chief directed the police force to follow a policy of restraint in order to avoid violent clashes with the protesters. He further directed the police to deal strictly with the violators and arrest the rioters if they were found involved in creating lawlessness-like situation, or they attempted to damage public and private property.

The IGP also warned that no attempt to damage private or public property, whether it belonged to the federal or the provincial government, would be tolerated. Similarly, he said, any violent action against human life would be dealt with sternly.

Meanwhile, according to insiders, the IGP has also warned police officers to remain on their toes against anti-state elements, who could try to create unrest by launching violent attacks during protest demonstrations against loadshedding.

The provincial police chief has also appealed to the people to refrain from violence and vandalism during protests demonstrations and never try to take the law into their hands. The public are also requested to immediately inform the police if someone disguised as protester tried to ransack public property.

Sources said that the Punjab government had decided that such elements would be dealt with an iron fist because they were causing loss of precious human life and damaging property during protest demonstrations.

According to police sources, at least 738 protest demonstrations against power outages have taken place place in different parts of Punjab during the past three weeks. The police have also registered 49 cases against the rioters and arrested 205 protesters who went on the rampage during the protests, which also left no less than 89 people injured. According to police estimates, at least 97,716 rioters were involved in protest demonstrations.