November 4th, 2020
By Hamid Riaz
The Pakistan Kisaan Ittihad (Anwar Group) (Union of All Pakistan Farmers) has vowed to continue their protest against what they say are the government’s anti-farmer policies, despite facing two waves of intense retaliation by the Lahore police.
Farmers from across Punjab started gathering at Lahore’s entry and exit points near Thokar Niaz Baig for a pre-planned march at the Punjab Assembly to demand an increase in the support price of wheat to at least Rs2000 per 40kg and for the provision of subsidies on fertilizers and pesticides. The farmers also demanded that the government remove extra surcharge levied on their tube-wells and electricity.
According to the farmers since the Sindh government has already increased the support price of wheat to Rs2000 the Punjab government should follow suit.
After several rounds of negotiations between the government and the farmers’ representatives collapsed, the Punjab Police carried out two “clearance operations”, one in the night and one early morning today, which resulted with several farmers being injured.
Public Relations Officer of the CPO Lahore, while talking to Voicepk.net confirmed that an operation was indeed carried out by the police and several arrests were made to ensure “law and order in the city”.
A representative of the DIG operations who has been coordinating the operation against the protestors claimed that 162 farmers were taken to jail as a result of the operation carried out late Tuesday night while several other arrests were made in the morning; though he failed to provide details of the exact number of protestors who were picked up.
“The police is an enforcement agency. We were directed by the Deputy Commissioner to clear the area and we performed our duty. Most of the people who were picked up were taken into custody according to Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order,” asserts the DIG office.
But Chaudhry Anwar, President of the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad in an exclusive discussion with Voicepk.net claimed that the “police carried out a barbaric operation against peaceful protestors.”
At the time of filing of this report, the central leadership of the PKI had retreated from Thokar to hold a meeting in the Gulberg area of Lahore and to decide their future course of action but Anwar was adamant that despite the brutal operations carried out by the government, the farmers will not go back to their villages.
“The government is under the impression that if they crush us we will give up. I want to tell you that they are grossly mistaken. Farmers from across Punjab have answered our call and new members are on their way to replace the ones who were picked up. We will continue with our peaceful protest as planned,” says Anwar.
Anwar says that even though his clothes have been spoilt by the excessive use of water cannons by the police, his spirits are still high. And he will persist until all their demands are met.
Key opposition figures including Mariyam Aurangzaib and Rana Sanaullah have also condemned the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors. Jamat-e-Islami Cheif Siraj-ul-Haq has also put his weight behind the protesting farmers. Reiterating their demand for an increase in wheat’s support price.
Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab on Agriculture Abdul Hai Dasti condemned the use of force against peaceful farmers.
“I advise the administration of Lahore city to stop arresting these poor farmers. I have associated with this profession myself and I understand the trouble these people are facing. Many of them barely make ends meet. The government should form a committee to negotiate with the farmers and try finding middle ground instead of attacking them,” says Dasti.