Lahore police scuttle protest against Karachi abductions


–Police briefly arrest at least 35 activists who had gathered outside press club to hold a demonstration against the abductions in Karachi


LAHORE: Lahore police on Thursday briefly detained at least 35 political activists, including that of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), who had gathered outside the Lahore Press Club to protest against the abduction of activists in Karachi.

Other than members of the Manzoor Pashteen-led PTM, the participants of the protest included a large number of university students especially Pashtuns, members of student organisations, including the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and the Red Workers’ Front.

The protest was organised in relation to the arrests PYA members in Karachi, who had been detained for holding a pro-PTM rally in the metropolis last week.

One of the participants, who witnessed the arrest, while speaking to Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity said that the police arrested them after they told security officials they had gathered to participate in a protest pertaining to the missing Karachi youths. The abducted activists were taken to nearby police stations, including the Garhi Shahu, Lytton Road and Civil Lines and were later released.

SP (Operations) Safdar Kazmi told Pakistan Today that the activists were picked up in attempt to thwart the protest, adding that the protesters were released after some time. However, according to police, the number of the arrestees was not more than 20.

Not all protesters were released at once, as some of them were released around 10:00 pm at night. Confirming the release of the activists, a PTM member said that the detention of the protesters without any charges was absurd. “We still can’t comprehend why the police picked protesters up when they weren’t even protesting, he added.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Ismat Shahjahan, the PTM allies and member of Awami Workers Party (AWP) denounced these arrests, terming them “unconstitutional”. “The people of Lahore and Karachi coming out for the rights of the oppressed Pashtun community is a victory for the movement and these arrests would strengthen the narrative of the PTM,” she added while alluding to the string of protests in Karachi and Lahore on PTM’s call.

She, however, went on to add that such tactics would hurt the nascent talks between the PTM and state. “They can’t simultaneously hold dialogue and arrest people,” she said.

The Progressive Students’ Collective (PSC) also condemned the arrest of students from outside the press club. In a statement issued here, PSC said that the behaviour of the authorities was regrettable.

“We request all students in Lahore to remain updated regarding the situation and come out if needs be,” read the statement while adding that it was a question of collective freedom to speak and the right to protest.