Dozens detained after protesting students, police clash in Quetta

Updated February 12, 2020

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Officials said the protesters were also shouting slogans against the Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal and the varsity's Vice Chancellor Dr Naqeebullah. — AFP/File
Officials said the protesters were also shouting slogans against the Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal and the varsity's Vice Chancellor Dr Naqeebullah. — AFP/File

Dozens of protesters were detained by the police on Wednesday after students and officials from the Bolan University of Medical and Health Sciences clashed with the police at GPO Chowk in Quetta.

The protesters, who were calling for the restoration of the varsity in its original state, a reduction in the varsity's fees and the dismissal of the vice chancellor, said that they had staged a peaceful demonstration but the police had still used excessive force.

Instead of providing us with security, they treated us poorly, the protesters said.

However, according to officials, the protest, which initially started outside the Balochistan Assembly, migrated to GPO Chowk, causing traffic to come to a standstill. Despite repeated warnings, they still did not disperse, they added.

Officials said that the protesters were also shouting slogans against the Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal and the varsity's Vice Chancellor Dr Naqeebullah.

Police said the protesters were taken to the police station. Following the arrests, a hashtag in support of the dozens arrested started trending on Twitter.

DIG Abdul Razzaq Cheema told DawnNewsTV that the protesters were not arrested, but simply detained, and were let go in batches some hours later. Asked about the number of protesters detained by the police, DIG Cheema said he did not have an exact number. He added, however, that no case was registered against the protesters.

Speaking at a press conference after the arrest, the president of the Pakistan Medical Association Balochistan chapter Dr Abdullah Rahim condemned the arrests. "The government should take this matter very seriously," he said.

Senior official of the All Pakistan Clerks Association (APCA) Younis Kakar stated that cracking down on peaceful protesters is against the law.

Balochistan Assembly in uproar

During the session of the Balochistan Assembly on Wednesday, ministers, including the provincial finance minister Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi, condemned the arrests.

However, this did not sit well with Speaker Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, who admonished him for condemning the arrests. "You are a minister. It is your government, so why are you condemning the arrests?" he said.

The two engaged in a verbal back and forth, with the speaker telling the minister that his conduct was inappropriate. "You cannot talk to the speaker in this manner. If the government arrests someone, they need to give a reason for it," he said.

The minister maintained that he will not apologise as he has done nothing wrong. He said: "This is a sad incident. Problems are cropping up due to the varsity's incompetent vice chancellor. Because of him our children are on the streets."

The lawmakers added that the relevant authorities have been told to release the protesters.