–Students claim they were harassed by PML-N leader’s ‘goons’ for asking about party’s plan to address water crisis
–Video making rounds on internet shows ex-minister asking his supporters to ‘take students away and get them clean drinking water’
LAHORE: At least five students were allegedly detained by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former minister of Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique in a bid to avoid answering their questions regarding the ghost of absolute water scarcity that haunts the country and provision of clean drinking water.
Earlier this month, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), had alerted that Pakistan would run out of water by the year 2025 as the country was wasting around 13 million cusec water into the sea.
On Tuesday, five student activists, who had gone to the former minister’s corner meeting held in the Chungi Amar Sadhu locality of the city, were allegedly harassed by Saad Rafique’s “goons” after they expressed concern over the looming water crisis and supply of contaminated water to the people.
As per the details, Haider Ali Butt, affiliated with the Haqooqe Khalq Movement (HKM) – an organisation addressing Pakistan’s hollow democracy and making efforts to promote interaction between voters and their representatives – asked the PML-N leader to outline his party’s plan to address the water crisis in Pakistan and the absence of clean drinking water in his constituency.
Instead of answering the well-meaning question of the student, Saad Rafique ordered the attendees of the gathering to shut off their mobile phones and stop recording what witnesses said was the senior politician’s “humiliation”. A video, making rounds on the social media, shows the ex-minister then asking his supporters to “take the students away and get them clean drinking water”.
According to the victims’ accounts, following the dialogue, Saad’s supporters manhandled them, locked them in a room for more than half an hour and threatened to beat them up.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Haider told that he and around 10 of his fellow volunteers had gone to attend the corner meeting being voters of Saad Rafique. “We distributed pamphlets among the people to raise awareness so that the meeting rather than being a stage-to-crowd contact is an actual democratic and two-way interaction,” he said, claiming that it wasn’t later when a couple of police personnel made the female volunteers leave the venue.
“We did not protest when the police escorted our female colleagues out of the gathering, but when our genuine concerns were responded to with hostility… it was just too much,” said Haider.
“Five of us, for more than half an hour, were locked up in a room where several goons of Saad Rafique visited us and harassed us. Not only did they check our CNICs, but also took away our phones and went through our personal data,” he claimed.
Haider said that all they did was exercise their right to question their representatives, but the way the PML-N leader and his alleged goons reacted was regrettable. “This is political violence. This is an exposure of the PML-N’s hollow rhetoric and empty promises. They say ‘vote ko izzat do’ but they can’t even tolerate their constituents asking such basic questions.
HKM’s Ammar Ali Jan condemned the manhandling of students by supporters of the PML-N leader and said, “I can’t say I’ll be surprised if the incident is labeled an ‘attempt to sabotage PML-N’s political campaign by some rivals’ ahead of the general polls… but that is not the case.”
Speaking to this scribe he said they believed it was high time representatives left behind the traditional ways of electioneering and reached out to their constituents so they are apprised of what the residents want. “Otherwise, the people would adopt guerilla tactics to make their voice count and it would lead to further hitches,” he said.
Meanwhile, HKM has announced to hold a protest demonstration against the incident on July 1.
Repeated attempts were made to contact Khawaja Saad Rafique, but he was unavailable.