November 5th, 2020
By Hamid Riaz
One of the protesting farmers, Ashfaq Langriyal, baton-charged, tear-gassed, and allegedly sprayed with chemical-laden water has died while under treatment at the Jinnah Hospital Lahore. “He was severely beaten up by the police yesterday,” says Chaudhry Anwar Central President of the Pakistan Kisaan Ittehaad (Anwar Group). Ashfaq received several injuries as a result of the barbaric police assault on the farmers and had to be given initial medical treatment on-site. “His health deteriorated further in the morning so we decided to move him to the Jinnah hospital where he died shortly after,” says Anwar.
Anwar claims that far from providing a death certificate the hospital administration has not even released the body of the deceased. “The staff told us that they do not have permission from their higher-ups to release the body,” says Anwar.
Advisor to the Chief Minister Punjab on Agricultural affairs, Abdul Haye Dasti expressed deep remorse on the matter but refused to comment any further. The CPO Lahore’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Yesterday, while talking to Voicepk.net PRO to CPO Lahore had claimed that the use of excessive force was justified because the police were acting to restore “Law and Order”.
The news arrives as, after several campaigns of intense violence against peaceful farmers, demanding an increase in wheat’s support price, the government had finally decided to let up the pressure. According to the president of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI), in the morning, today a meeting took between representatives of the farmers and the Punjab government. During the meeting, the government assured the farmers that all the protesting farmers put in jail will be released soon.
“The government has ordered the release of our fellows arrested yesterday. We hope that the government will keep their word and our fellow protestors will be released from the Kot Lakhpat Jail, soon,”
The Pakistan Kisan Ittehad (PKI) and the Pakistan Kissan Board (PKB) had called for a March on Punjab assembly on the 4th of November to demand an increase in the per maund price of wheat to at least Rs. 2000. In addition to the increase in wheat prices, farmers were also demanding the provision of cheap and better quality fertilizers and subsidies on electricity provided to agrarian areas.
For this purpose, at least 6000 farmers (the government contends this figure) gathered near Thokar Niaz Baig, Lahore, and blocked the Multan road on Tuesday. After several rounds of negotiations between the farmers and the government fell apart the police carried out a brutal “clearance operation” late Tuesday night. Farmers were severely beaten, tear-gassed, and allegedly sprayed with chemical-laden water. Scores of farmers were injured as a result of the police charge and many others were taken into custody. Office of the DIG operations Lahore confirmed while speaking to voicepk.net that at least 162 farmers were taken into custody and shifted to the Kot Lakhpat Jail in line with the directions issued by Lahore’s district administration.
Resilient, the farmers re-grouped at Thokar Niaz Baig in the morning where they were again assaulted by the police which resulted in more injuries and more arrests. The police failed to provide the exact number of people picked up during this round of violence. In a final move, the farmers decided to regroup again in the afternoon and began marching towards the Punjab Assembly. They were met with another wave of intense violence on the Mall road of Lahore. Sources within the PKI claim that over 200 of their fellow protestors were placed in custody, overall. According to the police the arrests were made under section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO).
Yesterday the farmers decided to call off their strike after “assurances” by the government that formal discussions will soon begin to address the legitimate demands of the farmers. Sources inside the PKI (Anwar Group) claim that a decision was taken to postpone the strike after intense use of force by the government.
Civil Society organizations and rights activists have condemned the brutal police attack by the police on peaceful protestors. In a tweet the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan demanded that the government pay heed to the plight of protesting farmers, calling on the government to “urgently change its anti-people economic policies.”