Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) activists made good on its call for a protest, burning two buses and vandalising several police vehicles on Friday.
At least 78 Jamiat members were arrested by the police; some for trying to rally on The Mall while others were nabbed in a raid, allegedly after alcohol and illegal weapons were found in their hostel rooms.
The IJT had issued a call for a country-wide demonstration on Thursday to protest the police’s failure to arrest the murderer(s) of Awais Aqeel, an IJT member and a Punjab University (PU) student who was shot dead on Sunday. The university administration has denied that Aqeel was a “regular student”. A spokesperson said that Aqeel had failed his LLB (Part-I) exams and was enrolled to only sit for his supplementary exams.
Jamiat members started walking from Chauburji Chowk before Friday prayers. When they reached Nasser Bagh and turned towards The Mall, they were baton charged by the police. At least 52 students were arrested.
Protests have been banned on The Mall by the Lahore High Court.
Witnesses said that the students broke the windshield and windows of several police vehicles. They also stopped a rickshaw carrying small blackboards and wooden stands. They then used them to attack the policemen. Police also used tear gas to disperse the protesting students.
Jamiat members allegedly also torched two buses – one at Samanabad Mor on Multan Road and the other in Township. According to witnesses, students stopped the buses and told the passengers to disembark. They allegedly said they would put the buses on fire with people on board if they refused to get off.
Separately, police raided PU hostels number 1, 2, 4, 15 and 18 at around 2:30 am on Friday and arrested 26 IJT activists. Those arrested include the university nazim, Haq Nawaz, and general secretary, Abdul Muqeet. University administration said that liquor and weapons was seized from the IJT activists’ rooms.
An IJT spokesperson Arif Hussain, however, denied the allegations. No liquor or weapons were recovered from the hostel rooms, he said. He accused the administration of “maligning” the Jamiat. A PU spokesperson said the recent incidents supported the administration’s stance that student wings of political parties should not be allowed in universities.
Classes remained suspended for the second consecutive day at the university after the Academic Staff Association continued its boycott. Prof Shaukat Ali said the association would discuss its strategy in its meeting on Monday. He appreciated “the government’s decision to launch an operation against ‘rogue elements’ at the university.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2012.