Clash over free flour distribution leaves four injured in Shangla

Published March 31, 2023
Protesters block Karakoram Highway in Dandai, Shangla, on Thursday after a clash with police. — Dawn
Protesters block Karakoram Highway in Dandai, Shangla, on Thursday after a clash with police. — Dawn

SHANGLA: Four persons including a policeman were injured in a clash between police and protesters over distribution of free flour in Maira area of Bisham tehsil on Thursday.

The clash erupted when protesters attempted to loot flour bags meant for free distribution among deserving people. Three protesters and a police constable were injured. Police vehicles were also damaged as angered protesters pelted stones at them.

Dandai SHO Fazal Elahi told Dawn that protesters, led by village council chairman Shah Zenat, blocked Karakoram Highway and attempted to loot flour bags being transported to Bisham from a flour mill.

He said that protesters pelted stones at police when they tried to stop them from looting the flour truck.

Shah Zenat, who led the protest, said that they were protesting against the unjust distribution of flour and demanding the establishment of more points but police started baton charges and injured several people.

Assistant Commissioner Mohammad Jawad Asif said that protesters also attacked a police station in Dandai. He said that police resorted to firing in the air to disperse the protesters but the road remained blocked.

Demonstrators in Swabi and Bajaur want distribution mechanism changed

He said that the road remained blocked for four hours. He said that the issue of flour distribution points was addressed in the talks between protesters and the local administration. However, he said, protesters were demanding the transfer of SHO Fazal Elahi, which was not possible.

He said that FIR was registered against some of the protesters, who attacked the police van and police station. He said that some protesters were also arrested.

In Kohat, the administration has finalised a comprehensive strategy for the distribution of free flour by establishing separate points for women and elderly people.

The decision was taken to stop the looting of flour trucks.

DPO Shehzada Umder Abbas Babar took the decision after visiting various distribution points on Thursday and witnessing the hardships being faced by women and elderly people, according to a statement.

He ordered the deployment of 500 policemen at all the distribution points. He urged people to cooperate with the police and get the flour in a disciplined manner.

In Swabi, Jamaat-i-Islami staged a protest demonstration against price hikes and irregularities in the free distribution of wheat flour among deserving people.

The JI workers were also joined by a large number of common people, who chanted slogans against the officials involved in irregularities. They said that there was lack of a perfect mechanism to provide flour to people in an easy way.

Addressing the protesters, JI leaders Mehmoodul Hassan, Mian Iftikhar Bacha and Imaduddin said that government, instead of giving relief to poor people in the holy month of Ramazan, made their lives miserable. They said that even women stood in long queues for the entire day to get the substandard flour.

“Both PDM and PTI leaders are pulling legs of each other to acquire power. No one cares for the people. Even flour is not available to people,” said Mr Hassan. He added that unbridle increase in the prices of essential commodities continued unabated, making it difficult for people to meet basic needs of their families.

A visit to various flour distribution points in the district revealed that a number of families regularly visited the points but failed to get the commodity.

“I along with my wife have been visiting the distribution point for the last three days. Every day, when we reach close to get flour, we are told that to come next day as time is over,” Nisar Khan, a resident of Maneri Bala village, told this scribe.

An official of district administration, when contacted, said whenever a person failed to get flour due to not fulfilling the requirements, he started complaining and indulged in mud-slinging campaign.

In Bajaur, JI leaders threatened to launch a massive movement if the mechanism of flour distribution was not changed immediately.

Addressing a protest demonstration, they alleged corruption, irregularities and mismanagement in the ongoing distribution of free wheat flour in the district.

The demonstration, held in Inayat Kallay bazaar, was attended by a large number of JI workers, locals and youth. The participants of the rally raised slogans against government, district administration and local food department for making poor arrangements to distribute flour among needy people in a dignified way.

JI leaders Qari Abdul Majeed, Maulana Waheed Gul, Mohamnad Hameed Sufi, FarmanullaH and Hayat Khan addressed the rally.

They said that the process of flour distribution was replete with corruption, irregularities and mismanagement. They said that it also against the local customs and traditions.

“Women stand in queues with men outside the distribution points throughout the day to receive the bags of free wheat flour,” they said.

They alleged that only few women got free wheat while most of them were forced to visit the distribution points again and again owing to mismanagement.

They demanded of the authorities to change the process of flour distribution to facilitate people. They said that JI workers were ready to support the administration in provision of flour to people in a dignified manner.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2023

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