April 18th, 2021 

By Asra Haque


LAHORE

Viral videos of the Punjab Police savagely thrashing those who seem to be workers from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has social media reeling in horror at the excess brutality being meted out to citizens.

Reports have emerged of widespread and indiscriminate arrests, many involving innocent passersby and completely unrelated individuals.

Spokesperson of the Lahore Police Arif Ali Rana provided that 424 people were arrested in connection to the violent protests in the police crackdown against protesters. Among them, many have emerged who claim innocence, and that they had merely been passing by but were picked up and tortured by law enforcement personnel for crimes they did not commit.

Shamsuddin Amjad, head of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) social media wing, provided that his brother Najamuddin was picked up by Model Town police on April 14 despite the fact that he was at work at a Nishat Mills factory from 06:13 AM to 02:31 PM, and therefore not even at any site of protest.

Shamsuddin further provided that his brother has no affiliation with the now banned political party. Moreover, according to legal procedure, Najamuddin should have been produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest, but despite the passage of two days, he remained in the custody of the Model Town police.

In another such instance of abuse of authority, Karachi police arrested one Griphen Masih, a Christian man, for rioting, pelting police personnel with stones, as well as inciting a mob to violence. Despite his mother’s appeal for his release to the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police West Karachi for his release, Griphen remains in police custody.

In another development, student leader and President of the State Youth Parliament Shaheer Haider Malik, more popularly known as Shaheer Sialvi, was arrested after a video in which he was seen denouncing the arrest of TLP Chief Saad Rizvi and inciting people to violence against the state went viral on social media.

Sialvi was booked by the Westridge Police Station in Rawalpindi under sections 7 (punishment for acts of terrorism) and 11X (3) (responsibility for creating civil commotion) of the ATA, and section 505 (2) (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

When voicepk.net contacted the police regarding these allegations they out rightly denied it. “Everyone should remember how brutal these people were. These were not normal protestors. They were armed with makeshift weapons like spiked sticks and even petrol bombs. They harassed people and did not even allow women and children to pass through their ‘checkpoints’. All in all, 700 policemen were injured as a result of the violence. Moreover, the government has issued an informal gag order regarding all news about the TLP,” explained a police official on condition of anonymity.

WHAT BROUGHT ABOUT THE RIOTS?

In November 2020, the religious party carried out a mammoth march to Islamabad, led by the late founding chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, to protest the re-publishing of blasphemous material by French satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo. The march was later called off when the government signed an agreement with the religious organization promising them to kick out the French Ambassador to Pakistan before February this year.

The deadline was later extended to April 20 after negotiations between the government and the new party chief Saad Rizvi. The TLP chief was mobilizing his supporters for a grand march towards Islamabad if the government failed to kick out the French Ambassador before the new mutually agreed deadline.

However, on the evening of April 12, when TLP Chief Saad Rizvi was on his way back to his residence after leading the funeral procession of a local businessman at Multan road, Lahore, his car was flagged down by local police and he was detained to “maintain law and order” in the country, sparking widespread riots across the country.

THE GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO CLAMP DOWN WITHOUT REMORSE

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Friday, April 16, took to Twitter to announce that the government with the support of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), Safe City Lahore, and other agencies had constituted a special cell to identify individuals who had ambushed law enforcement personnel through video footage of the violent riots that took place between April 12 and April 16.

The minister further added that the cell has managed to identify and take action against swathes of protesters under the ATA. Moreover, the district administration will monitor all speeches.

Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Sindh Chief Omar Shahid Hamid on Friday announced that the agency has lodged a complaint with the Cybercrime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against a list of social media accounts purportedly associated with the TLP that used online platforms to “incite violence, spread hate, and glorified the assaults on law enforcement personnel.”

Furthermore, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has advised the Federal Government to take over all madrassahs operated by the banned political group in an effort to seize their funding sources as well as to halt all publication and dissemination of their literature.

With the state leaving no stone unturned in rooting out and raining hellfire upon citizens allegedly associated with the banned TLP party, Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad took to Twitter to warn citizens  against hostile elements on social media attempting to incite another wave of violence by sharing blasphemous content. Alluding to “wrongs being done abroad”, he urged people not to “fight your own institutions.”

 

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