February 9th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz
Chaudhry Anwar, President of the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) who was allegedly taken into illegal custody by personnel and officials of the Punjab Police on February 8, Monday morning was finally released late at night, having spent almost 12 hours in police detention.
“It was an ordinary Monday morning and I was getting ready to start my day when I heard commotion right outside my house in Multan,” explains Chaudhry Anwar, speaking to Voicepk.net, in an exclusive interview, shortly after his release. “When I stepped out I saw three police vans speeding towards my house. I instantly realized what this was about.”
After they spotted Anwar, some police personnel approached him and intimidatingly asked him to accompany them. Anwar says he did what he was told, fearing he had no other choice but to comply.
The policemen sat Anwar down in one of their vans and they headed out of Multan. The drive was long and tiresome and Anwar had barely any idea of where he was being taken. It took some time for Anwar to realize that he was being taken to Lahore.
“They told me that a First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against me by an expatriate Pakistani based in Kasur city. I was told that I had taken some money from the complainant and had refused to return it, even though I have never had any business in Kasur. I do not know anyone in that city. I don’t know how they came up with this botched FIR. Then I guess it is easy for the government to register such cases whenever they so desire,” says Anwar.
Once in Lahore Anwar claims he was not taken to any police station. “They kept me inside the police van for several hours. After a while, several senior police officials including an SP and an SSP arrived at the scene and started ‘negotiating’ with me regarding our planned protest march to demand an increase in the support price of wheat. They told me to cancel the march and forbade me attending future rallies against the government or else,” claims Chaudhry Anwar.
Even though Anwar is not sure about the exact location he was kept in Lahore, as he was barely allowed any time outside of the police van, he managed to take a good look at his alleged abductors.
“The vehicles were from Raiwind City police station in Lahore and the man leading the contingent of police personnel was wearing the name tag of “Saqlain Shah” on his police uniform,” confirms Anwar.
Upon conducting an independent investigation Voicepk.net was able to ascertain that Saqlain Shah is in fact the station house officer at the Raiwind City police station. Voicepk.net tried to contact several senior police officials, including the DIG Operations, Lahore, regarding the matter but they proclaimed ignorance.
Similarly, the publically listed phone number of the Raiwind City police station was not accessible, and SHO Saqlain Shah’s mobile number, obtained from the DIG office, rang several times without any response.
However Naib Qasid Asghar from the Raiwind City police station who declined to comment on the involvement of personnel from his police station in the alleged abduction/arrest of Chaudhry Anwar.
Apologizing on behalf of the SHO, Asghar maintained that his commanding officer had been ‘preoccupied’ the entire day and would not be able to respond to allegations leveled against him by Anwar.
Asghar also informed that a case had been registered against Anwar in PS Raiwind city under Article 401 PPC, (being part of a criminal gang).
It is important to note that there are glaring disparities between the allegations leveled against Anwar by the police. For instance, Anwar was informed that he was taken into custody because of a fresh FIR against him registered in Kasur, while Voicepk.net was told that Anwar was taken into custody to investigate an old FIR against him linked to protests carried out by the PKI for the same demands in November last year.
Farmers’ protests and history of barbaric crackdowns
In November last year, hundreds of farmers gathered at Lahore’s Thokar Niaz Baig for a planned rally to the Punjab Assembly to demand an increase in the Support price of wheat in the Punjab province to at least Rs2000 per 40Kg.
Instead of conducting a civil discussion with the farmers, Lahore’s district administration chose to brutally crackdown on them.
The farmers were baton-charged, tear-gassed, and sprayed with chemical-laden water. The brutal crackdown resulted in the death of PKI’s finance secretary Ashfaq Langriyal in Lahore. Another farmer from Burenwala, Vihari died after reaching his city allegedly succumbing to the injuries he received during the vicious waves of police crackdowns.
According to Chaudhry Anwar in addition to the deaths, around 400 farmers were also taken into custody by the police and implicated in flimsy FIRs. But the government moved to release all of them after successful negotiations. “We came to Lahore to demand due share for our hard work and we are leaving with dead bodies,” remarked Chaudery Anwar at the time.
The future course of action
Chaudhry Anwar reached his home in Multan on Tuesday morning, February 9. Though rattled, his spirits are still high.
“We will conduct meetings with representatives of PKI from different villages and decide on our final course of action,” says Anwar. From his confident tone, it was clear that the city of Lahore should prepare for another farmers’ agitation.