LAHORE: Five students who had been leading the agitation against the holding of on-campus examinations in the city over the last two weeks were arrested in an early morning police raid on a house in Iqbal Town here on Thursday.
The raid was conducted by a heavily armed police team on the house of Sanaullah, a student activist, in Raza Block of Iqbal Town, picking the Progressive Students’ Collective (PSC) Lahore president Zubair Siddiqui, secretary general Ali Ashraf, information secretary Salman Sikandar, an activist Haris and the house owner.
Mr Sanaullah’s wife Sidra told Dawn that they were asleep when they heard someone madly banging the main door around 4am.
As soon as her husband opened the door, around 10 heavily armed policemen, most of them in civvies, entered the house and pounced upon their guests, who were in other rooms.
Senate ex-head Raza Rabbani terms action dictatorial
She said the policemen manhandled them, used abusive language, and threatened the students of dire consequences, before bundling her husband and others into a vehicle.
She said Mr Siddiqui had shown a pre-arrest bail order granted by a court, but the raiding policemen did not listen to him and took him and others away.
“I have visited several police offices in the day to meet my husband but no one was ready to tell me where he was detained,” she said.
Ms Sidra further said that she had filed a habeas corpus petition in the court for her husband’s recovery. “I am told that the owner of a colleges and schools chain was behind the arrest of my husband and other students to teach them a lesson for organising protests,” she said.
Senior Superintendent of Police (investigation wing) Ghaffar Qaisrani told Dawn that the students were nominated in various cases lodged on the complaints of different educational institutions, and they would be presented before the court on Friday (today).
Hundreds of students of various educational institutes of the city, as part of a campaign -- “Justice for the Students” -- had been protesting against the decision to conduct on-campus examinations for the last two weeks.
On Tuesday, the protesting students were attacked outside a private university by its baton-wielding security guards.As a result, five of the students had suffered head injuries.
Nawab Town police registered a case against 95 nominated and 400-500 unidentified students under sections 452, 506/B, 148, 149, 427, 342, 290, 291, 440, 436, 269, and 270 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and 16 of the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance 1960 on the complaint of the university’s chief security officer Naveed Mukhtar.
The police also took 36 of the protesters into custody, who were later presented before a judicial magistrate on Wednesday. They were handed over to police on a three-day physical remand.
Former chairman of the Senate Senator Mian Raza Rabbani condemned the baton-charge and arrest of peaceful students in Lahore. He condemned use of dictatorial laws, including section 16 of the MPO against the students demonstrating for the matters relating to their studies.
He said this act of the Punjab government against the students was not new as in the past also they had been charged under section 124-A of the PPC for sedition. “Similarly, Prof Ammar Ali Jan, who was demonstrating for academic freedom, was also kidnapped and subsequently released on public pressure,” he recalled.
Mr Rabbani said such acts of the state to suffocate, terrify and brutalise the student community and academia were an indication that the state was moving towards fascism where no dissent, whether it be political or academic, is allowed.
“I may not agree with some of the demands [of the students] at present, but cannot support the brutalisation of the student movements at the hands of the state,” he said.
Regretting that the state had learnt nothing from the history, he said: “There were small incidents in Rawalpindi and Karachi that ignited the flames of the student movement which became a catalyst for the people’s movement leading to the dethroning of Gen Ayub Khan, a dictator.”
He demanded that the arrested students should be released immediately and the cases registered against them be also withdrawn.
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2021