LAHORE: Lahore Police on Thursday resorted to the brutal use of force on dengue workers protesting on Cooper Road for their rights and students gathered outside Lahore Press Club to register their protest against the arrest of political activists.
The use of force by police reminded people of the mayhem of Model Town. In Model Town incident in June 2014, use of force on the workers of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), at Minhajul Quran Secretariat, had resulted in the deaths of at least 14 people including women when police had opened fire on protesters as they refused to
budge even after baton-charge and tear-gas shelling.
On Thursday, similar scenes were witnessed around the Punjab Assembly. At several points, police used blatant use of force that resulted in injuries to of dozens of protesters most of them women. They also took 25 protesters into custody. Police also used water-canon to disperse the protesters.
A large number of dengue workers had gathered outside the office of Director General Health Sciences. They staged a sit-in and shouted slogans in favour of their demands. On failure to their demands being addressed by the authorities concerned, the protesters started marching towards Faisal Chowk in front of Punjab Assembly.
Lahore police force man to remove clothes for 'checking'
Contingents of Anti-Riot Force (ARF), a newly established squad to deal with the protesters, along with area police confronted them by setting up barricades.
The protesters insisted to move forward and tried to remove barriers. On which a conflict ensued. ARF, a force specially trained to hold negotiations and deal protesters professionally so that Model Town-like incidents could be averted, resorted to brutal torture on the protesters.
They beat up everyone who came in their way, the majority of them women. Dozens were injured, few of them severely and admitted to Mayo Hospital for treatment.
When beating, kicking and torturing did not produce desirable results, police resorted to using water cannons against the protesters. The protesters hurled stones at police. They also damaged a few vehicles and broke windowpanes of buildings.
Separately, Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), Red Workers Front (RWF) and a Pashtoon rights organisation had decided to stage a protest demonstration outside Lahore Press Club (LPC) for the release of their colleagues arrested on April 22 from Karachi after a protest.
As the students and youth started gathering there, police launched a crackdown. They picked 24 of them up, put them in a police van and shifted them to an unidentified location.
Superintendent of Police Civil Lines Division Safdar Kazmi, when asked why the students staging a peaceful protest were arrested, he refused to comment. While a dozen of other protests were also going on side by side outside LPC but police did not touch them at all. Different students organisations condemned the arrest of students and demanded their immediate release.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2018.
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