Ghazi police have sent 16 protesters including social activist Irum Rashid Tahirkheli to Mardan jail for one month after they were arrested for staging a protest and blocking the road in the Tarbela dam area on Thursday.
The police had arrested the protesters, including leading activists Irum Rasheed, Gul Zaheer, Arshad Mehmood, Zahid Mehmood, Ahmed Baig and others under maintenance of public order (MPO).
As per the contents of the first information report (FIR) registered at the Ghazi Police Station, about 180 protesters led by Irum Rasheed Tahirkheli, staged a protest against WADPA officials for the rights of the affected communities of the Tarbela Dam project.
During the protest, which lasted over eight hours, the protesters blocked the road near the Tarbela barrage leading to the Swabi district and residential areas of Tarbela Dam, suspending traffic and movement of people on both sides.
According to the FIR, the protesters also allegedly used abusive language against WAPDA officials, Chinese workers and the local police. They also allegedly attacked two police officers and tore up their uniforms when they attempted to stop them from creating the law and order situation.
The police, during the late evening operation, resorted to baton charge for dispersing them and arrested over 20 of the protesters, including Irum Rasheed.
The Ghazi police booked over 16 leading protesters under sections 337 F1, 353, 506, 147, 149, and 341 of the Pakistan Penal Code. The arrested protesters were sent to Mardan jail for one month, the police said.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Committee Chairman Babar Nawaz Khan has condemned the registration of the case and arrests of the protesters. He said that further injustice with the citizens will not be tolerated, otherwise, they will start a “jail bharo movement”.
Nawaz said they will soon call a Jirga of the affectees of Tarbela dam and elders of Ghazi tehsil to announce their future course. He said that the Tarbela dam administration made fake promises to the locals.
Babar Nawaz said that three years ago when he was an MNA, the WAPDA management had agreed to make 30 per cent hiring from among the affectees of Tarbela dam and allocation of 70 per cent quota for locals.
He condemned the baton charge and arrests of the protesters and announced his support for them. He said that the royalty from the water reservoir was also the right of the affected families.
Babar Nawaz said that the local educated youth were roaming with degrees in their hands and it was unjust to hire people from other provinces secretly.
Meanwhile, Awami National Party leader Anwar Shah Mashwani has also condemned the arrest of the protesters.
He demanded that the government immediately released the woman social activist and other arrested people.
The ANP leader said that the Tarbela dam management compelled the people to take to the streets after they backed out reneged on their promises.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2021.
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