600 detained to stop farmers march LAHORE: Amidst hundreds of detentions across the province, a good number of farmers, under the banner of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI), marched from Data Darbar to Charing Cross and staged a sit-in against `anti-farmer policies’ of the PML-N government outside the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday.
Armed with canes and sugarcane sticks and carrying placards, the farmers blocked The Mall for traffic. Skirmishes between the farmers and motorists also occurred over blockade of the road.
The provincial administration, following a carrot-and-stick policy, looked confused in tackling protesters. It detained hundreds of members of the PKI but allowed some farmers to hold a march and sit-in in the provincial metropolis.
Police began a crackdown on PKI leadership and members from Khanewal on Monday night and extended it to other districts like Pakpattan, Sahiwal, and Vehari.
The PKI had announced symbolic funeral procession of agriculture sector from the Punjab Assembly to the Governor’s House for Wednesday (today) and march on Islamabad on Sept 29.
Through advertisements, it had invited opposition parties leadership, including Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan, PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, JI’s Sirajul Haq besides Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take part in the its march.
In the provincial capital, police kept raiding various places, including the office of an opposition party’s Kissan wing, to detain farmers.
PKI’s central president Khalid Mehmood Khokhar told Dawn by phone that police had detained their 600 members, including office-bearers, across the province. He condemned the detentions and demanded immediate release of the detained farmers.
After the farmers started converging on Data Darbar to march towards Charing Cross, police started arresting them. Some protesters ran away to avoid detention. Farmers, however, managed to hold the rally from Data Darbar to Charing Cross.
Official statistics from the Punjab police claim that around 70 people were detained from the districts of the province, namely 24 in Okara, 15 in Multan, 13 in Khanewal, 11 in Vehari and seven in Lodhran.
Police received 18 surety bonds in Sahiwal and 14 in Pakpattan. In Okara, the local leadership assured the district administration that nobody would go to Lahore to participate in the march.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf said the capital city police had detained 200 farmers from The Mall and adjoining areas. He said police were detaining the protesters under 16 MPO and the detained farmers were being sent to their respective districts.
Meanwhile, PPPs leader Khursheed Shah and Manzoor Wattoo, PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Mehmoodur Rasheed, JI’s Siraajul Haq, and Tehrik-i-Istaqlal’s Rehmat Vardag condemned the detentions of the farmers and demanded their immediate release besides the acceptance of their demands.