A power loom worker, arrested on Tuesday night on terrorism charges, was released on Wednesday after scores of his colleagues staged a protest demonstration demanding his release.
The workers protested for more than seven hours on Wednesday over the arrest of their colleague, Maqsood Ahmad, a resident of Chak 67-JB in Saddar, accused of starting a fire at a power loom factory in Thikriwala during a series of protests two years ago.
Nearly 100 power loom workers took out the protest, led by Meeran Pehalwan, the Labour Qaumi Movement president of Saddar chapter. The protesters gathered at the Bypass Chowk in Saddar on Wednesday and blocked Jhang Road for almost the entire day. Chanting slogans against the police, the protesters demanded immediate release of their colleague and withdrawal of the case against him and others.
Maqsood Ahmad was arrested on Tuesday night by the Thikriwala police in a case registered against him in July 2010 under Sections 436, 397 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act.
In July 2010, hundreds of power loom workers had taken out several protests against the government and had demanded an increase in their wages.
Six men were convicted by an anti terrorism court and awarded 590 years in prison over the riots. Several had gone into hiding.
The Labour Party Pakistan members also condemned the arrest, which they said was done without proper investigation. They said the workers were falsely accused of terrorism.
Labour Party Pakistan General Secretary Younas Rahu said, “The police are arresting innocent workers while the wanted terrorists are roaming around free. Why are they not arrested?”
He demanded withdrawal of case against Ahmed and all the workers who, he said, have been wrongly implicated in police case.
Labour Qaumi Movement Chairman Mian Abdul Qayyum, also a member of the federal committee of the Labour Party, threatened the police with city-wide strike if Ahmed was not released.
In the night, SSP (Operations) Sadiq Dogar tried to persuade the protesters to disperse. At their resistance, he ordered Ahmed’s release. The SSP, however, said that the suspect had been released temporarily, and the investigation would continue.
Later, while talking to The Express Tribune, Qayyum said that the police had released Ahmed as they did not have any other option. “If police arrest him again, they would be responsible for the consequences,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2012.