LAHORE, April 17,2005: Four women members of the Pakistan People’s Party, including three provincial assembly members, had to be taken to hospital for treatment after being beaten up by policemen on April 16, the day PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Lahore.
MPAs Azma Zahid Bukhari, Farzana Raja and Faiza Malik, and Muazzama Husnain Zaidi, a party member from Multan, were mistreated by the police in Defence. They were taken to the Race Course Women police station before being rushed to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology for first aid. While the other women were brought back to the police station, Ms Bukhari had to be admitted to Services Hospital as she had suffered more serious injuries. Her father said that the women had been beaten up by Inspector Ashraf Chaddar of the Defence police station.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) monitoring teams visited various parts of the city to observe the treatment meted out to PPP workers and parliamentarians, who had come to Lahore from all over Pakistan to receive Mr Zardari, by the Punjab police and other law enforcement agencies.
Daily Times accompanied the team led by Asma Jahangir, HRCP chairperson, as it visited police stations to meet political detainees. Other HRCP teams visited Bilawal House and the Data Darbar area.
However, the teams were not allowed access to all detainees. Ms Jahangir visited the Sarwar Road police station in cantonment where a large number of PPP workers and parliamentarians had been detained. She wanted to meet Zebun Nisa Leghari, a PPP parliamentarian who is a heart patient, but was refused entry to the police station. The team was told that Rubina Qaim Khani, a woman parliamentarian, had been beaten up at the Sarwar police station.
At Munawan police station, the police had detained a mother along with her three children. The children, Rukhsana, Mazhar Hussain and Tooba were 13, seven and six years old respectively. They were not released until Ms Jahangir approached the chief minister’s secretariat to protest the illegal detention. Though this resulted in the release of the children, the station house officer did not allow their mother to leave with them.
The detentions were not confined to police stations. Some Sindh assembly members complained that they had been mistreated at Data Darbar and detained in a dark room there. Dr Mehreen Bhutto and Humera Almania, who were later released from the shrine, said they had been mistreated by policemen.
The HRCP team also visited North Cantt Police Station, where they were allowed to meet the detainees — over 16 parliamentarians, including Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, and a large number of political workers. It was obvious that many workers there had been beaten up.
One HRCP team also met Babar Awan, Mr Zardari’s lawyer, who said that he had been kept from meeting his client in Bilawal House for over three hours.
The team led by Ms Jahangir met Mr Zardari in the afternoon. Mr Zardari told the HRCP about the reported arrests and abuse of party workers. He added that he was under ‘house arrest’ and had been denied the right of assembly at Data Darbar.
“Treating political workers badly is becoming a norm in Pakistan,” said Ms Jahangir. She condemned the imposition of Section 144, which denies people the right of assembly, and the poor treatment meted out to political workers. “People should be encouraged to get involved in the political process rather than being curbed from participating in it.”
The objective of the teams was to move independently and observe the situation impartially. “We have no political motives. We just want to observe the situation as far as freedoms of expression and assembly are concerned and see how workers who are exercising their right of political activism are being treated,” Ms Jahangir told the police and press.
The HRCP monitoring teams were “surprised” by statements from some federal and Punjab government officials that no arrests had been made on the day.In a statement, the HRCP demanded the release and compensation for PPP workers detained and maltreated by police.
Source: Daily Times