Lahore pays tribute to its martyrs
* Citizens lay bouquets at Traffic Police memorial on Liberty Roundabout
By Adnan Lodhi
LAHORE: The city’s residents on Wednesday paid tribute to the policemen who sacrificed their lives for the Sri Lankan team’s safety during the 25-minute shootout at Liberty Roundabout.
Those who sacrificed their lives for the team’s security were Maddasir Nadeem, Zafar Iqbal, Faisal Butt, Tipu Fareed, Zafar Khan, Sultan and Tanveer Iqbal.
Memorial: City Traffic Police arranged a memorial to the bravery of the police officials at the Liberty Roundabout. Posters of late traffic warden Tanveer Iqbal were displayed, that said: “Salute me, Salute Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s friendship.”
A great rush of people was observed at the Liberty Roundabout, as citizens visited the crime scene in groups and placed floral bouquets to pay tribute to the deceased. Citizens condemned the terrorists and said they were proud of the city police. They pledged to fight terrorism with a united front. They demanded the government distribute Rs 10 million among the families of the police martyrs. Some students even prepared banners saying: “The nation is proud of these brave policemen and they deserve Rs 1 billion.”
Police officials, representatives of the civil society, students, teachers, and others gathered at the Liberty Market also offered fateha for the deceased.
Faheema, a traffic warden, said it was a tragedy that late Iqbal was not carrying a weapon to fight the terrorists. Dr Tasneem Haroon, a woman who had come to lay flowers in the memory of the deceased, said she came from London to pay tribute to the deceased policemen.
Hammad, a traffic warden on The Mall, said citizens were saluting the wardens due to the sacrifices made by their colleague. He said it was encouraging to see the citizens paying tribute to those who had sacrificed their lives for the country’s sake.
A heavy contingent of police had been deployed on the occasion to ensure a foolproof security system.
Citizens condemned police officials, who were situated in nearby localities, for showing negligence by not rushing to the crime scene. They said nearby police stations failed to provide help during the 25-minute shootout.
Shahid Butt, a citizen, said it was failure of nearby police personnel to reach the scene that had allowed the terrorists to escape. He said nearby police stations did not come for help and the Police Department should take action against them. He said the pilot squad also did not return to aid fellow policemen although they were aware of the situation.
Pakistanis pay tributes to slain policemen
Lahore (PTI): Pakistanis are queuing up to pay tributes to the policemen who died defending the Sri Lankan cricket team in the cultural capital of the country, Lahore.
Liberty Chowk, the otherwise busy hub of Lahore, where the bus carrying the Sri Lankan team was fired at, has been witness to several emotional scenes in the past two days.
Maddasir Nadeem, Zafar Iqbal, Faisal Butt, Tipu Fareed, Zafar Khan, Sultan and Tanveer Iqbal died defending the team.
A special memorial was organised by city traffic police to pay tributes to the police personnel. "Salute me, salute Pakistan and Sri Lanka's friendship," read one of the posters displayed at the Liberty Chowk which had a portrait of traffic warden Tanveer Iqbal.
Mohammed Farooq, a traffic warden, said Iqbal had never been on VVIP duty before. "Iqbal was never before posted on the VVIP route. on Wednesday too, it was my duty there, but he insisted to swap his place of duty with me. He was cricket crazy and wanted to catch a glimpse of Sri Lankan players," Farooq told Dawn.
Near the portrait, schoolgirls placed cards which read "We salute our policemen, who guarded our guests with their lives". Another card read: "For my dear Lahore, may you get well soon".
Traffic wardens ‘were so brave’
Vivian Salama, Foreign Correspondent
LAHORE // By morning rush hour yesterday, the scene of Tuesday’s commando-style attacks on the Sri Lankan national cricket team had been transformed into a mass shrine.
Throughout the day, hundreds of people crowded around a massive poster dedicated to Tanveer Iqbal, a 26-year-old traffic warden who was among seven people killed in what Pakistani officials have described as an act of terrorism.
“Long live the traffic warden!” the crowd chanted between recited prayers, many laying flowers only a few metres from where he was fatally shot.
The victims, identified by Pakistani authorities as elite force officers Tipu Sultan, Mudassar Kumboh, Faisal Butt, Sultan Farid and “Mahmoud”, as well Iqbal and one of the team’s drivers, Zafar Khan, were fatally shot when 12 heavily armed gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying Sri Lankan players and coaches to Lahore’s Qadafi Stadium. None of the cricketers suffered serious injury.
In the aftermath of the bloodshed that tore through this relatively peaceful Pakistani city, the law enforcement officials who were killed in Tuesday’s attack have been hailed as heroes and martyrs. Witnesses described them as human shields that served to protect the widely revered sportsmen.
“The terrorists tried to kill the Sri Lankan players but the amazing traffic walas [wardens] saved them – they were so brave,” said Ayub Shahid, an engineer who returned to the scene to pay his respects one day after witnessing the onslaught.
However, along with the tribute, there is also a belief circulating among Pakistanis, particularly within the country’s law enforcement community, that the deaths could have been prevented had the officers been better equipped to confront such a sophisticated security threat. Traffic wardens said they were no match for the assailants, who were armed with AK-47 rifles, grenades and even rocket launchers.
“We are all empty-handed – this is the policy of the government,” said Mohammed Faisal, a traffic warden in Lahore, standing alongside his shaken colleague Mr Shauwkat, who was just a few steps away from Iqbal when he was fatally shot.
Pakistan’s increasingly apparent security gaps have sparked international criticism about the country’s ability to stifle its growing militant problem.
Punjab’s governor, Salmaan Taseer, said he would hold an inquiry into security lapses that might have paved the way for this broad daylight attack to occur at a major city junction. He denied allegations by the former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif that the security failure was the result of the recently heightened political wrangling in the province.
“We saved the Sri Lankan team,” Mr Taseer said, suggesting that the tragedy could have been a lot worse had his government failed to provide the proper security precautions.
Still, some law enforcement officers believe that much more could have been done to save their colleagues.
“We could have done something about these attacks but none of us has a weapon and the police walas have only sticks. Who can fight the terrorists this way?” said another traffic warden who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions.
Traffic police in Lahore earn an average of 20,000 Pakistani rupees (Dh920) a month. This low salary comes after a pay increase was approved by the former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in 2006 in an effort to curb corruption among low-paid street officers. Traffic police also received new uniforms and greater job opportunities as part of the move by Punjabi officials.
Still, they work long hours and receive nothing in the way of health care or social benefits.
Mr Faisal believes these conditions are unacceptable, particularly when faced with circumstances that put their lives at risk. “No weapons and no health care? It is so demoralising for us. How can we do our jobs properly?” he asked. “[Iqbal] is not a hero, he is a victim. It can happen to any of us.”
"Cricket is not cricket without Shahid Afridi." - Michael A. Holding
Last edited by moiz; 5th March 2009 at 17:46.