ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Tuesday condemned what is said excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies prior to and during the ‘Haqiqi Azadi March’ of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior met to discuss and fix responsibility on the use of what it said use of undue force on the participants of the march, obstructions created in their ways and the registration of first information reports (FIRs) against them.

“It is necessary to investigate where the abuse took place during the Haqiqi Azadi March,” chairman of the committee, Senator Mohsin Aziz demanded.

The members were shown videos of violence against participants of the march, including members of parliament.

Forms subcommittee, comprising all political parties, to probe and file report for fixing responsibility

Senators Ijaz Chaudhry, Azam Khan Swati, Shibli Faraz, Faisal Javed among members of the Punjab and Sindh assemblies and former Punjab health minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid alleged atrocities committed against them.

Shehzad Waseem, leader of the opposition in the Senate, demanded details of tear gas fired on the protesters while Senator Zeeshan Khanzada asked for details on raids carried out on May 23-25. Senator Fauzia Arshad said peaceful protesters were tortured. Senator Saifullah Abro demanded that police officers who violated the law should be brought to book.

“Torturing protesters and restraining them by force is contempt of court. Withdraw FIRs against the citizens,” Senator Faisal Saleem added.

Minister for Law and Justice Senator Azam Nazir Tarar said the issue of senators Ijaz Chaudhry and Azam Khan Swati had been raised with the Ministry of Home Affairs. He occasionally interrupted the proceedings by insisting that the matter was sub judice and according to rules it should not be debated. He hoped that a decision would be made by the court in this regard soon.

Senator Maula Bakhsh Chandio challenged the impartiality of the committee and also interrupted the proceedings with frequent sarcastic remarks.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Islamabad Dr Akbar Nasir Khan, responding to questions from the senators, said tear gas used on the protesters caused irritation in the eyes only. “Expired tear gas shells were not used. No other chemicals were used to disperse the crowds on May 25,” he said.

Tear gas was fired at the protesters after the court denied them entry to D-Chowk. He said: “No one is detained in Islamabad at the moment. Everyone was released following the court order.”

After a lengthy discussion, the chairman of the committee decided to form a subcommittee, comprising all political parties, to probe into the use of force against the participants so that responsibility could be fixed.

“It is important to note that the administration should not be given so much power,” he said.

Written questions regarding use of police force and violations of human rights would be forwarded to the concerned authorities, the committee chairman.

He said it was inappropriate to register challans in anti-terrorism courts against youth protesting peacefully in Umerkot.

The chairman of the committee decided that the next meeting on the issue would be held in camera.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2022

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