A man set fire to his motorcycle outside Governor’s House on Monday in a protest against the new Hafeez Centre union, gaining some media attention and a burnt bike.
Muhammad Zaheer, a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) activist and a resident of Sanda, poured kerosene over his motorbike and then set it alight. His three sons accompanied him and stood watching nearby. Fire fighters put out the blaze, but the bike was left a burnt shell.
Zaheer told reporters that he was protesting because the Hafeez Centre union, whose elections were recently won by the Al-Khidmat Group, had stopped him from running the centre’s canteen, a job which he’d been doing for the last two years. He said they had also confiscated his furniture, fridge and stove. He said his motorbike had been his last remaining asset.
His stunt got him the attention of the media as well as staff at Governor’s House who ushered him inside. Tanveer Butt, the governor’s political secretary, called up the Hafeez Centre union to try and resolve the matter. Hafeez Centre Union President Fiaz Butt told The Express Tribune that Zaheer owed the union Rs180,000 and though asked to pay several times, he had not yet even committed to paying. “His valuables have been confiscated and if he does not pay the due amount, we will auction them off,” he said.
Zaheer said that he owed the union Rs80,000. After the election, he said, the union had raised his rent from Rs40,000 to Rs60,000. He said he was being falsely accused of not paying rent.
He said that he had been a political activist for the last two decades and he knew that to get justice, he needed to get the attention of the media. “I decided to burn my bike as a last resort, to record my protest,” he said.
Butt said the Governor’s House doors were always open for party workers. “He did not need to burn his bike to get his protest recorded,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.
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