KARACHI: After 32 civil society activists were arrested during their protest outside Chief Minister House on Thursday evening, they are now considering the option of approaching the Sindh High Court to force the government to take action against banned outfits.
The sit-in had been initiated against the Shikarpur imambargah bombing that claimed the lives of 62 people but the focus shifted to the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) when the protesters learnt about the religious party’s planned rally in the city.
The leaders of the protest, activists Mohammad Jibran Nasir, Khurram Zia and Shahryar Naqvi, were arrested on Thursday evening along with 29 others for allegedly violating the Red Zone. The police claimed that the demonstrators had scuffled with the police and removed barricades but the protesters denied these allegations.
“We were peacefully registering our protest without crossing the barricades; we were only sitting and shouting slogans,” Nasir told The Express Tribune on Friday. “An SP came and told the police to arrest us, after which they shifted us to different police stations.”
As the news of their detention spread, a number of people gathered to protest outside police stations in District South, including the Frere, Preedy and Saddar stations. The police later released them.
“It is the right of every citizen to know who is a militant and who is innocent,” claimed Nasir. “The apex court has also given orders to make the names of militant outfits public, so why are the government and law enforcement agencies not doing so, and why are these outfits’ leaders still enjoying police protocol?”
Meanwhile, Zia told The Express Tribune that they had the option of approaching the court to force the government to reveal names of the banned outfits. “However, going to court is a lengthy process so we are also planning short-term ways to make the government take action against banned or militant outfits,” he added.
The police said that they did not intend to arrest the protesters but had been forced to take this step because of their actions. “This was not the first time they were staging a sit-in; they protested here on Tuesday and Wednesday but left after a CM House official assured them of full cooperation,” said Frere DSP Iftikhar Lodhi while talking to The Express Tribune. “They came back when they found out that ASWJ was holding a rally on Thursday evening.”
He claimed that when the police tried to give them assurances, they resorted to hooliganism, upon which the SP gave orders for their arrests. DSP Lodhi said that all the detainees, including two women, were released within three hours.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2015.