Police on guard to avert PU clash

November 19, 2007

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LAHORE, Nov 18: The Punjab government has prepared a security plan with an understanding to send police to the Punjab University new and old campuses on the call of its administration to avert any collision among students representing the Jamiat and anti-Jamiat groups on Monday (today).

The PU students are all set to hold a mass protest rally against the Islami Jamiat Tulaba on the third consecutive day as they are highly charged against it for its widely-condemned action of manhandling and handing over of PTI chief Imran Khan to police on Wednesday last.

The IJT activists, who remained conspicuously absent from the university campus the very next day, had shown up with a 150-student rally against President Gen Pervez Musharraf for imposing emergency and promulgation of Provisional Constitution Order in the country on Friday.

Fearing a clash between the two groups during protest for having intelligence reports that both groups will be equipped with arms, the governor/chancellor had asked the PU administration to close the university on Monday.

However, the university administration as well as Deans’ Committee did not agree to it and instead decided to face the situation. It has devised an internal security plan to keep both groups from coming into contact.

Still some university teachers say the administration should have heeded the university closure call instead of taking undue risk. They also think that the government may itself ‘facilitate’ a clash in the university to shift students and teachers’ attention from emergency and PCO to internal conflict.

Meanwhile, the police have inspected the routes to protest rallies on the PU New Campus and finalised points for entering the institution and taking control of protesters, if needed. A heavy contingent of police will remain deployed around the varsity.

The PU administration has also constituted teachers’ groups and assigned them to be stationed in front of the Institute of Education and Research, underpass in front of the Institute of Chemical Engineering and Technology, Law College, Hailey College, the Institute of Communication Studies area as well as on Old Campus. For coordination, a command centre has been established at the Vice-Chancellor’s Committee Room.

The PU deans’ committee, headed by vice-chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Arif Butt, held a marathon meeting on Sunday and discussed the governor’s directive to close the university for a day. Later, a delegation, led by Prof Butt and Registrar Prof Dr Muhammad Naeem Khan, visited the Governor’s House to take up the issue.

Senior police officers, including Capital City Police Officer Malik Muhammad Iqbal, were also present.

Sources told Dawn that the committee briefed the governor on the situation and asserted that the varsity should not be closed and instead massive measures should be taken to avert the clash and allow both student groups to hold their protest rallies within the campus. The VC said the university had also taken extraordinary measures to avert any clash.

The officials agreed that a heavy contingent of police would remain deployed on all gates of the university and immediately respond to the call of the administration.

Registrar Prof Naeem Khan has urged both groups to remain peaceful and return to their classes after holding token protest rallies.

Meanwhile, IJT central shoora held its meeting and removed PU IJT nazim Muhammad Ayub on the charges of mishandling Imran Khan’s visit to the university that led to his manhandling and arrest. The IJT has already suspended its 17 members, holding them responsible for the incident. The committee has appointed IER’s Attiqur Rehman as the new IJT nazim.

The IJT activists, who were highly disturbed over mass anti-Jamiat rallies on the PU campus, have again announced their protest rally against the imposition of emergency and promulgation of PCO by Gen Pervez Musharraf. However, most IJT activists have a grudge against their opponent group students because they believe that most of them (anti-Jamiat students) are giving vent to their feelings against the IJT rule.

On the other hand, the leaderless PU students are again set to hold a rally purely against the IJT for their hooliganism against students on the campus. Some of the protesters told Dawn, “We, the PU students, will hold a protest rally against Jamiat and its hooliganism on the campus. We will neither show any banner or placard nor utter a single word against the government, Gen Musharraf, emergency and PCO”.

They also claimed that since Friday, the IJT activists had thrashed and tortured five university students for taking part in the anti-Jamiat rally. They said the Jamiat activists had also threatened several students with dire consequences and advised them not to take part in the rally.

Finalising the protest strategy, the students prepared a five-point charter of demands that calls for the closing down of Jamiat’s offices illegally established in university’s academic departments and hostels as well as vacation of hostel rooms occupied by those IJT activists who were either not enrolled or have been expelled or rusticated from the university.

The charter says the university should expel the IJT nazims in hostels and university departments on the charges of taking part in political activities against their undertaking at the time of admissions. They demands that the hostel management committees, comprising IJT activists, abolished and new committees formed with those students who excelled in academic performance.

They also sought replacement of hostel wardens and superintendents who supported the Jamiat activists. The governor, they stressed, should order setting up of permanent police or Rangers’ posts in hostel areas as boarders were living in constant fear.

PU Academic Staff Association president Dr Mumtaz Salik on Sunday responded to the registration of FIR against 14 university teachers on sedition charges, saying: “The teachers are proud of being booked on the charges of raising their voice for the restoration of law and constitution, and freedom of judiciary and the press.

“All university teachers are expressing solidarity with us and we are ready to even lose our jobs and go to jails for the national cause,” he expressed resolve.

Dr Salik told Dawn that he had called a PUASA general-body meeting on Wednesday to finalise further protest strategy.