MUZAFFARGARH: Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) MPA Rana Abdul Manan Sajid, along with farmers, protested late on Saturday strongly outside the residence of Jatoi Assistant Commissioner (AC) Tariq Mahmood Malik, chanting slogans against him for allegedly selling Passco (Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation) bardana (gunny bags) to traders instead of distributing them to farmers.

Later in the dead of night, protesters broke into the AC’s residence, and thrashed, and injured him. Earlier, the MPA-led protesters accused him of selling the bardana to middlemen. They alleged that despite the directives from the government and Passco officials for fair distribution of bags to farmers, the ACs of Jatoi and Alipur allegedly sold the bardana to private traders.

Gauging the severity of the situation, Dera Ghazi Khan Commissioner Dr Nasir Bashir, Regional Police Officer retired Captain Sajjad Hassan, Muzaffargarh Deputy Commissioner Mian Usman Ali, and District Police Officer Syed Hasnain Hyder gathered the AC’s residence on Sunday. By the time of filing this report at 9pm on Sunday, they were still in Jatoi.

MPA Sajid alleged that the Jatoi AC violated farmers’ rights, resulting in wheat being left in fields under the open sky due to the non-availability of suitable buyers and official gunny bags. He alleged the AC sold a bardana for Rs1,000 to middlemen. He, however, said he had no connection with the protesters.

Following the altercation, AC Malik went to the Jatoi Tehsil Headquarters Hospital for treatment. Despite repeated calls, the AC could not be contacted for his comment.

In the last few weeks, Passco officials were booked for selling bardana to out-of-district middlemen at Rs800 to Rs1,200 per bag, illegally profiting millions.

MPA Sajid was elected for the first time in the February 8 elections with the support of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, and later he joined the ruling PML-N. He stated that the protest was peaceful and denied claims of entering the AC’s residence. He claimed that only a demonstration was held on Saturday night and later he left the scene. He pledged to raise the issue in the Punjab Assembly and lodge a complaint against the district administration and the AC.

Sources said that the AC after the attack contacted Muzaffargarh DC Mian Usman Ali to initiate legal proceedings against the protesters who assaulted him. The DC stated that the matter was under investigation.

The police said that they received an application from the AC that eight unidentified people vandalised his residence, attacked and injured him, and tore his clothes. The police said they are looking into the case.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2024

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