The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on Friday directed Islamabad police to look into the siege of Dawn's Islamabad offices by a mob earlier this week, adding that if there was a "criminal element" it should be investigated.
The mob on Monday had staged a demonstration against the publication of a news report regarding the origins of the London Bridge attacker who stabbed two persons to death last week. The charged mob, carrying banners and chanting slogans against the newspaper, had remained outside the office building for nearly three hours, besieging the premises and making the staffers hostage.
Following the attack, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar had taken notice of the besieging of Dawn offices by the unidentified persons and directed the inspector general of police Islamabad to submit a report on the issue to the committee by December 6 (today).
During the committee session today, chaired by Khokhar, officials from the Islamabad police and administration gave a briefing regarding the incident.
DIG Operations Waqaruddin Syed said around 40-50 people had staged the protest and as soon as the police had received information about the demonstration, they arrived at the Dawn offices in Islamabad.
They said that someone on behalf of Dawn spoke to the demonstrators after which they (demonstrators) left, adding that no action had been taken as police had not received a request for a First Information Report (FIR).
According to Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat, the individuals were not linked to any party. The officials said that security will be provided to Dawn on the directions of the committee and based on the request received from the media house.
During the committee meeting, senior PPP leader Farhatullah Babar, who had visited Dawn offices in Islamabad on Tuesday along with PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, said prior to the demonstration, one minister had tweeted [regarding the report]. "Twenty four hours following the tweet, the demonstration was staged," he noted.
While he did not specify, Babar appeared to be referring to Minister For Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry's tweet on Sunday regarding Dawn's report.
Babar said the demonstrators had chanted slogans in support of one intelligence agency, adding that the government had not even condemned the incident.
He said police had not carried out an investigation into how the people gathered or who they were.
"Why is there a restriction on Dawn newspaper in certain areas of the country?" he asked.
MQM lawmaker Senator Barrister Saif said an investigation should be conducted into who was behind the demonstration against Dawn and what their purpose was.
Senator Khokhar added that there was an attempt to silence the voice of the media, adding that the human rights committee would continue to raise its voice regarding this.
The Senate's functional committee also discussed the protest staged in Lahore as part of the Student Solidarity March after which police registered cases against the organisers and participants on sedition charges and arrested one of the participants, Alamgir Wazir.
The senate committee decided to summon the vice chancellor of Punjab University and directed the Punjab police to retract the FIR lodged against Iqbal Lala, father of Mashal Khan — who was lynched on the premises of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan over false blasphemy allegations.
Barrister Saif said that Mashal Khan's father shouldn't be dragged in courts, demanding that the FIR against him be withdrawn.
In a briefing, the Punjab police said that people had staged a protest and chanted anti-state slogans. According to the police, the students said they were representing student organisations and could not even share which university they were associated with.
The police officials said Alamgir Wazir had instigated [the protesters] through his speech and he was arrested.
Professor Ammar Ali Jan, who had secured interim bail in the case earlier in the week, told the committee that the chief security officer of the relevant university was constantly harassing them.
"During the protest, [we] did not make any such speech that an FIR should be registered against us," he said, claiming that Wazir was kidnapped after the protest.
Wazir, a former Punjab University student who went on to become chairperson of the Pakhtun Council, went missing from the campus. Following this, Capital City Police Officer Zulfiqar Hameed had told Dawn that Alamgir was arrested in the case.
On Monday, Wazir was sent to jail on a 14-day judicial remand. The move was challenged by the state in a sessions court in Lahore, arguing that a physical remand was needed in order to complete investigation. The court issued a notice to Wazir and directed him to submit his response on December 11.
A local court in Lahore today also dismissed a bail petition filed by Wazir earlier this week.
In the committee meeting, Senator Usman Khan Kakar said the students' protest was an extremely important issue, adding that students were doing what politicians should be.
"Why are people who made sacrifices against terrorism being treated this way?" he asked, adding that they want student unions to be restored.
He demanded that the FIR against the students should immediately be withdrawn.
Additional reporting by Rana Bilal.