LAHORE: Three traders were allegedly killed while as many passersby injured in a deadly armed clash between two groups of local traders at Shahalam Market here on Monday.
Two senior office-bearers of the traders’ association of Shahalam Market were also among those killed in the clash.
According to witnesses, a heavy exchange of fire with automatic weapons between the groups created panic and stampede-like situation in one of the busiest markets of the country.
A footage of the incident showed visitors and traders running for their lives, while at least four armed men carrying automatic weapons could also be seen firing straight at their rivals.
Three passers-by also suffered bullet injuries
According to the initial reports, the armed clash took place when one of the two rival groups allegedly demanded extortion money from some traders to ‘establish supremacy’ in the market.
The police authorities, however, denied the allegations of extortion, claiming the issue of collecting funds for maintenance of the market led to the armed clash, resulting in murder of three traders and injuries to as many passersby.
Sharing details, a police official said the clash occurred between the groups, respectively led by Atif Qureshi and Intizar Hussain. He said Atif’s brother Asif alleged that Hussain demanded ‘union funds’ from some traders without being authorised for the task.
This resulted in a scuffle in which Atif and his fellows were thrashed, he added.
Quoting Asif, the police official said the attackers later returned with weapons and opened fire on Atif and his fellows in the crowded market. He added that the rival group returned the fire.
He said the exchange of fire resulted in injuries to six persons, including Atif, who was general secretary of the local traders’ union, and Zubair Lodhi, the vice president.
The official said Atif, Zubair and a local trader Boota suffered critical wounds and were shifted to hospital where they died.
He said the condition of one of the three passersby injured in the clash was stated to be serious.
On being informed of the clash, a heavy contingent of police rushed to the site and got the shops shut in the market to defuse tension, he said. A heavy deployment of police personnel had been ensured in the market to avert any further clash between the rival groups, he added.
The dead bodies were shifted to the city morgue for autopsy, while investigations were underway to lodge the case, he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar took notice of the incident and sought a report from the police high-ups.
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2021