LAHORE: Following clashes, arrests and demonstrations on the Mall Road, Lahore Metro Bus track at Kalma Chowk and in front of the Punjab Chief Minister’s residence, visually-impaired persons spread their protest to other parts of the province.
On Monday night, the city police baton-charged visually impaired protestors who gathered to push the authorities to provide them with jobs or stipends. Police also arrested a few visually impaired protestors from outside the CM House. Police claimed that protestors were trying to enter the building after which police had to use force against them.
Enraged protesters shouted slogans against the government and vowed to continue their protest till the acceptance of their demands. They continued their protest on the fourth consecutive day and blocked the Lahore Metro Bus service for hours by staging a sit-in on the metro track on Tuesday. To express solidarity with the visually impaired community of Lahore, other differently-abled people also staged a protest in Rawalpindi against the high-handedness of Lahore Police and the Punjab government. They blocked the main city artery, Murree Road, causing a serious traffic mess in the city. They also demanded jobs in government departments.
Visually impaired persons protest caused a great inconvenience to Metro Bus passengers as Punjab Masstransit Authority (PMA) had to partially suspend the bus operation at Kalma Chowk. The passengers had to travel between Gaddafi Stadium Stop and Model Town More on foot due to the of visually impaired persons sit-in on the metro track.
Police action against visually impaired protesters stirred great agony among citizens as video footage of police torturing the protestors went viral on various social media website and messaging apps.
Opposition parties also criticised the provincial government, especially Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, for not paying heed to the pressing needs of differently-abled persons who have staged a series of protests in recent months.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has submitted an adjournment motion in the Punjab Assembly against, what they termed, the derogatory behaviour of the city police towards the visually impaired persons of Lahore and Rawalpindi. PTI MPA Shoaib Siddiqui in his adjournment motion has questioned rulers and bureaucrats that God forbid if they had a son or daughter having such disability would they behave in a manner displayed by the Lahore Police.
He underscored that it was very unfortunate that visually impaired persons had to stage demonstrations to get their justified demands fulfilled. He highlighted that the entire media had raised the voice of visually impaired persons but the CM failed to respond their demands though his office was a few hundred yards from the site of the protest.
He demanded the house to deliberate and resolve the issue as per the wishes of the visually impaired community. Siddiqui underlined that the Punjab government had billions of rupees to spend in so-called public welfare project but it has no resources to feed a few differently-abled persons in the province.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, a visually impaired protestor, Muhammad Zeeshan said they had staged a series of protests to get government jobs, but the government always made false promises.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2018.