LAHORE: Farmers claim they have no idea as to the location of their 15 colleagues who, PKI they say, went missing after police resorted to baton charges last Wednesday and detained about 250 farmers on Multan Road.
Malk Zulfiqar Awan, president of Pakistan’s one-wing Kissan Ittehad, who organised the protest last Tuesday, says two of his missing colleagues returned on Saturday, but 15 are still missing, and by Monday morning, the PKI plans to file a written application for their recovery.
In reality, as the police used the batons, water guns and tear-gassed, the farmers, who were seriously wounded during the Wednesday mayhem, were whisked away to undisclosed places and are being treated until release. Over the last three days, the farmers knew this (being held in private police places) and it was also reported by the Saturday returnees, “Awan told Dawn, and promised:” We would soon return to the roads. We are conducting qul on Sunday (today) of the martyred leader Malik Ashfaq. After that, we expect to schedule the PKI district presidents’ meeting and declare the next protest round. It is a war for our freedom that will be contested to the finish.
It is difficult to describe police highhandedness, says Ch Muhammad Anwer, the PKI chairman. We were all pushing for our rights. All those who came to negotiate on behalf of the government showed sympathy for our cause and committed to the perfectly justified adjustment of the wheat support price to Rs2,000 per 40Kg for our demand. We were merely calling for a meeting with either Chief Minister Usman Buzdar or Prime Minister Imran Khan to reassure them that our demand was fair. We were all unable to explain why the police had been released and unleashed with such ferocity. Both Punjab and the federal governments must note that with police power, rights movements will not be regulated or suppressed. The PKI would convene all District Presidents’ meetings to chalk out the next steps of protest.
In the meantime, farmers’ organisations in the province, along with civil society organisations, have agreed to join the PKI in their protest campaign. “A meeting was convened on Tuesday by the Kissan Rabita Committee, a conglomerate of 29 farmers’ bodies, to prepare to join hands with the PKI on a larger wheat pricing problem,” said Farooq Tariq, the committee’s general secretary. It is the farmers’ most valid demand and the government is not listening. The government murdered a cow, but they also don’t listen to the people. Today, I went to three districts to attend a meeting of farmers and I saw a very high degree of frustration among them. All four problems are soon found by the government-pricing of wheat, killing the chief of a peasant, swift release of those still missing, and reasons behind police atrocities-the better it will be. Otherwise, with more resolve and rage, farmers might return to the roads.