Police baton-charged the leadership and supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) who were trying to march towards Chief Minister House in Karachi on Wednesday evening in support of the farmers protesting across Sindh against sugar mills owners. Five workers were injured in the protest.
A large number of leaders, workers and supporters of the PTI gathered at Metropole Hotel that falls within the limits of the District South police. Hundreds of protesters staged a sit-in outside the hotel after a heavy contingent of police stopped them from heading towards CM House. After the baton-charge, the protesters started holding a sit-in near the Karachi Gymkhana.
PTI Sindh President Dr Arif Alvi was leading the protesters in Karachi. “We were baton-charged by the police twice,” said PTI leader Dawa Khan Sabir while talking to The Express Tribune. “We are here to support the farmers. We requested the authorities concerned, including the police and deputy commissioner, to just allow our delegates to meet the CM inside CM House or call the him to our sit-in,” he said.
Instead of fulfilling our demands, the police charged us with batons, he said.
Police officials said they took action against those who were trying to enter the Red Zone area. According to PTI leader Imran Ismail, five workers were injured while 25 others were arrested during the protest. Two female workers were among the arrested persons. The party’s provincial leader, Haleem Adil Shaikh, was also reportedly detained.
The sit-in continued till the filing of this news story.
Barrier after barrier
Circumventing one blockade after another, PTI’s rally in support of Sindh’s farmers crossed territorial limits of Hyderabad, from where it set off, and Jamshoro on Wednesday evening. It later met the rest of the protesters outside Metropole Hotel.
Led by Shaikh, the rally confronted its first barrier in Hyderabad where the police parked a container truck to prevent the vehicles from moving up to the Hyderabad Bypass. Another container was placed on the bypass near Sports Complex in Qasimabad.
However, PTI’s rally got around both obstacles only to be faced with another stoppage at the old toll plaza where the police blocked the passages through the toll gates. The participants staged a sit-in for half an hour at the gates. “We will walk all the way to Karachi,” announced Shaikh as he and other people travelling in dozens of vehicles dismounted and began walking past the toll gates.
The police stopped movement of traffic on the tracks of M9 Motorway which leads towards Karachi. After walking a short distance, the participants again sat in their vehicles which moved against the one-way for some kilometres.
Raza Muhammad, whose 14-year-old daughter Emaan was being shifted to Karachi in an ambulance from Umerkot district, pleaded to the police to open the road to allow the ambulance to pass but the police did not listen to his request.
“We wanted to hold a peaceful protest outside CM House to convey our complaints and demands,” said Shaikh while talking to the media.
“But this brutal suppression of our protest shows that the Sindh government is partisan towards the sugar mills in this dispute.”
The rally, dubbed the ‘Kissan Insaf Rally’, was organised as part of the ongoing protests across Sindh against the mills and the provincial government. The dispute between the farmers and the mills, which has been simmering since October, 2017, took the shape of demonstrations last month when protesters were roughed up on their way to Bilawal House in Karachi last month.
Later, Sindh High Court’s December 21, 2017 order cooled down the situation. The mills were asked to pay Rs172 per 40 kilogrammes of sugar cane rate to the farmers and deposit Rs10 in court until the matter was disposed off. However, the farmer organisations claimed that 25 out of 32 mills closed their operations and stopped purchasing cane, for which they were paying at a rate of Rs120 to Rs140, instead of complying with the order.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Maula Bux Chandio, at a press conference in Hyderabad, reacted to the rally and blamed the PTI for politicising the issue. “There is no presence of PTI in Sindh,” he asserted. “Many innocent farmers heading towards Karachi from Hyderabad were dispersed following the police’s baton charge while some are still on their way,” Sabir explained.
The ‘Kissan Insaf Rally’ will culminate outside CM House
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