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Emergency draws fierce on-campus ire

November 08, 2007

LAHORE, Nov 7: Students anger continued to mount on Wednesday as on-campus protests denouncing the imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan and the curtailing of basic freedoms took place in several leading universities.

At the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), 600 students gathered in the mid-day heat at their university’s sports complex to stage a sit-in. There, a series of speeches was made, including a brief speech by Justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif of the Lahore High Court. Though they had initially decided to hold a silent protest, student organisers soon found they could not contain the student bodies’ anger and students began to march around the campus, waving placards and chanting pro-democracy, anti-Musharraf and anti-authoritarian rule slogans.

Protesting mob also met Vice-Chancellor Dr Syed Zahoor Hassan who told them not to approach the main gate and confront the police, following which they proceeded to continue their march around campus. A breakaway group later did, however, stage a protest at the campus gates.

Imran, a student leader (whose name has been changed for his safety) told Dawn: “We cannot keep silent about these injustices, and are exercising our fundamental rights to freedom of speech. We are not trying to provoke authorities, but we do not fear arrest.”

Another student said: “I’ve never seen anything like this. People who aren’t normally at all concerned by politics are outraged at what has happened and are very motivated.”

The protest, which began at 1pm, was preceded by the arrival of police en-masse in buses and police cars, wearing riot gear and armed with lathis, at 11am.

Roughly 50 police were drafted in for the effort. As local and international reporters began to congregate at the gate, police became increasingly agitated and started charging reporters, including representatives from the LA Times and Germany’s Der Spiegel.

Station House Officer Mustansir Khan of Defence Police Station gave chase to a local television reporter, telling him “If you don’t move we will strip you naked and throw you in jail. Do you know what happens to pretty boys in jail?”

Though police initially allowed students on campus after checking their ID cards, they later refused permission to all students trying to enter campus. The students’ chants, which could be heard as they echoed several blocks away in the affluent Defence area, included “Lathi golli ki sarkar nahi chalegi” (Rule by sticks and guns won’t be accepted), “We want freedom, we want democracy”, and “Go, Musharraf, go”.

Students also reported several plainclothes police constables entered the campus and made notes about key leaders. Students say they are fearful of crackdown from intelligence agencies such as the Inter Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence, who last year swooped upon a group known as the “Youth Parliament”, a pro-democracy movement which was active in Lahore campuses last year.

Several members of LUMS faculty were released on bail, pending prosecution, including Prof Dr Cheema, Prof Dr Hassan, Bilal Minto and Asim Sajjad.

Imran said: “People were so motivated that even when we ended the rally and asked them to disperse, they continued to take matters into their own hands.

“This movement will not die here. What is happening around the city to our fellow students on other campuses makes us angry. We will regroup and take to the streets, and show the government we aren’t afraid of them.”

As police avoided resorting to show their true colures at LUMS, they intruded the FAST National University and thrashed a student and misbehaved with a faculty member on the campus.

A heavy contingent of police reached outside the university’s main gate, while some of the officials, including a couple of senior police officials, entered the campus to check students and faculty members, who were chanting “Go, Musharraf, go” and “Down with Emergency”.

Policemen thrashed Abdullah Zaki, a bachelor of business administration student, who was chanting slogans against the imposition of emergency rule. The policemen dragged him to the main gate, which had been locked in the meanwhile. Policemen kept on holding the student from his collar and hair near the main gate.

Computer Science Department’s assistant professor Liaquat Majeed Sheikh stood against police’s highhandedness and exchanged hot words with the intruder policemen.

Police wanted to arrest some students but the university management failed their efforts. Later, policemen left the campus at around 3.45pm as FAST NU Director Dr Arshad Husain and SP Model Town Division Imran Ahmar reached a settlement.

During the student-police confrontation that continued for about two hours, parents stayed outside the main gate as police did not allow anyone enter or leave the university.

FAST NU students told Dawn only a few dozen students and faculty members had gathered outside the university’s main gate at around 2pm but came inside the university campus, when they saw a police mobile van. The protesters were joined by over 200 students on campus. Meanwhile, a heavy contingent of police reached there and some of the policemen entered the campus.

FAST NU student Afraz said the students were protesting because Gen Musharraf had imposed the emergency rule to prolong his one-man show in the country.

Raja Junaid said students were exercising their right to protest in a very peaceful manner. Another student Nadeem said policemen had thrashed four students as well as manhandled faculty members.

Abdul Hayee said it was a matter of grave concern that the police entered the university and manhandled students and faculty members.

Punjab University students organised a protest march on New Campus as well as Old Campus against the imposition of martial law.

On the Old Campus, students marched from Oriental College to Pharmacy College, while on the New Campus, they marched from the IER to Law College and then to Shaikh Zayed Islamic Centre.

Government Science Degree College students also brought a protest rally. Students were carrying a banner bearing inscription “Martial Law not acceptable”.