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LAHORE: The police allegedly manhandled a group of protesters, mostly women and children, outside a government school in Bhati Gate and resorted to ‘baton-charge’ which left a 13-year-old boy injured.

The chief minister and the provincial police chief took notice of the incident and sought a report from the capital city police officer about the incident.

The city police authorities denied the allegation that Fahad, a sixth-class student, got injured due to baton-charge, saying he fell to the ground after being pushed by a protester.

The Bhati Gate police in order to save their skin got a written statement from child’s father Muhammad Illyas that the police did not hurt any protester.

Witnesses said some students of the Government Islamia High School gathered outside the school along with their mothers to protest the government’s decision to separate Ghazi Foundation from the school academic affairs. They said as the protesters, carrying placards inscribed with slogans of withdrawal of official decision and provision of security, demanded that the school be put under the control of the foundation, the school administration called in the police to handle them.

Bhati Gate SHO Mazhar Iqbal reached the scene along with stick-wielding subordinates and started dragging the protesters. The policemen also used baton to disperse them. Some footages aired by news channels showed the SHO and policemen dragging some of the protesters.

Illyas told reporters that his son was injured after policemen began baton-charge of some protesting children. After some senior police officers rushed to the scene and held another round of negotiations with the protesters, the latter dispersed.

DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf, who constituted a committee to probe the incident, told Dawn that the SHO reached the school to handle law and order situation and tried to negotiate with the protesters who were resisting transfer of school’s control from a trust to the city district government.

He said during negotiations, a scuffle broke out between the two sides which led to retreat of protesters. The child identified as Fahad fell on the ground and got injured during the melee, the DIG added.

Ashraf said the initial outcome of the inquiry conducted by two SPs also suggested that the police did not resort to baton-charge.

Meanwhile, the DCO said the school is owned by the City District Government of Lahore. “Some time ago, an NGO (Al-Ghazi Trust) adopted the school and took over the management control of this school, pledging that it will bear the entire expenses, including salaries of the staff. After APS tragedy, the school admin was directed to ensure security arrangements under the SOPs but it didn’t do so, giving school’s control back to the CDGL.

“Later, the CDGL installed cameras and other gadgets required under the security measures.”

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2015

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