January 28th, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed & Rehan Piracha
Mohammad Zubair Siddiqui, a Pushtun student leader who headed the protest against a private university in Lahore has been picked up by police officials along with four other activists, the wife of one of the ‘detained’ activists claimed on Thursday.
According to Sidra Iqbal, wife of ‘detained’ activist Sana Ullah, police raided their residence on Thursday at early hours of the morning and arrested her activist husband Sana Ullah as well as Zubair Siddiqui, the student of NUML who had led a protest on Tuesday against the University of Central Punjab (UCP) over in-person examinations. Police officials also arrested three other activists Salman Sikandar, Ali Ashraf, and Haris Khan said Sidra Iqbal who was in her house during the police raid. However, when told Voicepk.net contacted the police stations in Allama Iqbal Town and other police stations in the city, police officials denied that they had taken the above-named individuals in their custody.
The University of Central Punjab lodged a first investigation report with Nawab Town police following a clash between university guards and protesting students on January 26. According to the FIR, Zubair Siddiqui had been accused of leading the violent student protest along with 500 other unidentified persons. Sidra Iqbal claimed that except Zubair Siddiqui, none of the arrested activists including her husband had been nominated in the FIR, adding that Zubair Siddiqui was on pre-arrest bail in the case.
The FIR filed against the students claims that a mob of students led by Zubair Siddiqui attacked UCP’s main campus ransacking the place and setting the gate on fire. The charges include section 16 of the maintanence of public order and charges for tresspassing.
Earlier, the provincial government distanced itself from the clash between the university administration and students.
Speaking to anchorperson Munizae Jahangir on Aaj TV’s Spotlight news show, PTI’s minister for Higher Education Raja Yasir Humayun said the provincial government has remained neutral in the dispute, adding that the protesting students could lodge a counter FIR against the university guards. Responding to the minister’s suggestion, Professor Dr Ammar Ali Jan questioned whether any student could think of going to a police station in such an environment of fear and threat. On the show, Zubar Siddiqui also pointed out that the government had slapped around 500 students with Maintenance of Public Order in FIRs lodged against them, and therefore could not wash their hands off the incident.
Representatives from civil society have moved a petition in the Lahore High Court over the alleged arrest of the students. Students have called for a protest at Charing Cross in Lahore at 2 pm on Friday.