Angry students set three buses on fire on Monday morning after one of their college fellows fell from a bus and was run over.
19-year-old Muhammad Tabish, a Government Technical Training Institute, Gulberg student, boarded the route 22 bus (from Harbanspura to Thokar Niaz Baig) near Nia Pul. There was no room on the bus and Tabish ended up standing at the bus door. When the bus neared the Dharampura bridge, he lost his grip on the railing he was holding on to. Witnesses said that he fell under the bus and was run over. He died on the spot.
The bus driver fled the scene.
According to his family, he was on his way to college to collect his two-year diploma.
Some of Tabish’s college fellows, who were on the bus, then broke the windows of the bus. Some, according to witnesses, called up their friends and told them to reach the scene.
The infuriated students chanted slogans, blaming the bus company for Tabish’s death. Within half an hour, said Umair, a student, the number of protesters had increased from about 20 to 80. They pulled over and vandalised two other buses of the company. The three buses were then set on fire.
According to SSP (Operations) Sarfaraz Ahmad Manj, the students took out petrol from their motorbikes to sprinkle the buses with it.
Arslan Bhatti, a grade 11 student at the GTTI, said, “The driver should have stopped the bus when Tabish slipped.” He denied that college students had set the buses on fire.
Witnesses said that Race Course police officials had been present when the vehicles were torched but did not intervene. They resorted to a baton charge only after protesters started pelting Rescue 1122 officials with stones, for trying to extinguish the fires. They also damaged rescue vehicles. According to rescue officials, three men – Munawar Khan (Driver) and rescuers Rashid and Muhammad Akram – were injured in the assault.
The protest lasted for around three hours and resulted in a traffic jam from Dharampura to The Mall. It ended after the police arrested three students and the rest dispersed.
Tabish’s funeral was held at 4pm at his grandmother’s house in Lal Pul areA.
SSP Manj denied that the police had been late in reaching the late or hadn’t tried to stop the rioting.
“There was only a slight delay. It takes around 10 minutes for the messages to be delivered over the communication system,” he said.
Manj told The Express Tribune that three FIRs had been registered. One was registered by Danish, Tabish’s brother, against the company under Section 322 (murder). The second was filed at Rescue 1122’s request against a student, Haider, for damaging official property and injuring rescue officials.
The third was registered against the protesters – 150 unidentified and 23 nominated – at the complaint of the company manager Mohammad Adeel Nisar. The FIR was filed under Sections 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs50), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 290 (punishment for public nuisance in cases not otherwise provided for) and 291 (continuance of nuisance after injunction to discontinue).
Nadeem Bhatti, the Lahore Transport Company general manager (Communications), said that the company would fix responsibility for the incident and “if found guilty, the driver will be punished”. Bhatti said that the government had spent Rs1.2 million on reconditioning the three buses.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2012.