ISLAMABAD, Dec 28: Police broke up a protest demonstration organised by family members and relatives of missing persons, badly beating and arresting several of them after they tried to march to the GHQ to present a memorandum to the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff.

More than a hundred people, mostly women and children belonging to the families of the disappeared, arrived in groups to the square in front of the Flashman’s Hotel. According to the organisers of the protest, the participants had planned to peacefully march to the GHQ to register their concern over the detention of their loved-ones, who they say, have been in the custody of the army and secret agencies for the last several years.

Eyewitnesses said the trouble began when a heavy contingent of police, led by SP Yasin Farooq, SP Muhammad Azam and DSP Rana Shahid, pushed some of the protesters inside the hotel’s boundary wall, shoving and manhandling them badly.

After some time more protesters arrived and started shouting slogans against the police. Those who had been detained inside the hotel also came out to join them.

This led to skirmishes between police and the protesters. According to the eyewitnesses, the protest took a turn for the worse when the police stripped a young man, Mohammad bin Masood, the son of missing Masood Janjua. The witnesses said even then the police continued to drag him, finally throwing him into a police van.

The incident enraged other protesters, especially the man’s young sister, who started crying and flagellating herself.

The police also shoved aside the father of a missing man and later arrested him.

After having failed to march to the GHQ, the protesters blocked the Mall Road for about three hours. Police and protesters fought running battles for some time.

Scared by police highhandedness and arrests, a young girl and a small child lost consciousness and fell on the road, the eyewitnesses said.

Unbowed and determined, the protesters refused to leave the place, end the protest and open the road until the arrested men were released. Later, on an assurance from SP Azam that the detained men would be released, the protesters dispersed peacefully.

However, the younger brother of detained Mohammad bin Masood told Dawn by telephone that his brother had not been released by the police.

The eyewitnesses said that besides an old man and Mohammad bin Masood, several women had been detained and not released till late in the evening.

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