ISLAMABAD: While the Punjab government has ordered an inquiry into Wednesday’s shameful police highhandedness and brutal action against visually impaired persons in Lahore, a lawyer has moved the Supreme Court for a thorough investigation into the incident by a judicial commission.
The commission should be headed by a Supreme Court judge, pleaded a petition filed on Thursday by Dr Mohammad Aslam Khaki, Chairman of Insaaf Welfare Trust.
Dr Khaki, who is known for fighting for the rights of eunuchs, also sought exemplary punishment for those found responsible for the brutality. The punishment should be given under Qisas laws, he pleaded.
Police used batons to disperse a group of blind people who had gathered outside the Lahore Press Club on Wednesday to protest against what they said official disregard of the job quota for special persons and to raise voice for their rights.
The petitioner sought a court order for the authorities to proceed against the Punjab IG, Lahore DIG and Mall Road sub-division DSP for the alleged dereliction of duty and negligence. The government should also be directed to ensure protection of the rights of blind people.
Dr Khaki said it was shocking for the nation that the most marginalised people protesting for their rights had been beaten up by police. The incident can only be equated with the worst example of barbarism, especially against the disadvantaged, peaceful and honourable members of society.
In civilised societies, the petitioner said, the people with special needs were always honoured and treated with respect. They have been given special place in all religions, including Islam.
The petitioner cited the example of Hazrat Abdullah Umm-i-Maktoom, who was visually impaired but consoled by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) after he complained of being ignored. The Holy Prophet used to give him special attention, greeted him on his arrival and spread his cloth sheet for him to sit on it.
The petitioner said the constitution also had provisions for the disadvantaged people. Article 2A asks the government to take measures for safeguarding the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes. Similarly, Article 37 calls for promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils by the state, with special attention to their educational and economic interests.
Meanwhile, rights activist Asma Jehangir said in a statement that the police manhandling of blind people was distressing and showed the manner in which the Punjab administration was being run.
Suspending some police officials was not enough, she said, adding the Punjab chief minister should take the matter of police training seriously and demonstrate some sensitivity towards the demands of vulnerable groups.
The demand of visually impaired persons was legitimate and it should be accepted, she said, adding that the disabled were being denied their rights.
It is this fundamental flaw that needs immediate reform on a collective basis. A few suspensions, every now and then, would not solve the problem, she added.
Ms Jehangir lamented that long-standing impunity had hardened the attitude of police towards citizens. She urged the government to take immediate steps to address the demands of the disabled and warn law-enforcement personnel not to use force against peaceful demonstrators.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2014