Hunt for May 9 suspects: Lahore Press Club approaches high court to stop ‘harassment’ of journalists
LAHORE: The Lahore Press Club says it has compiled a list of nearly 197 journalists and crew of the DSNG vans of various news channels who faced harassment and abuse of power by police.
LPC President Azam Chaudhry told Dawn these media workers were discharging their duties on May 9 at different locations in the city, including Liberty Chowk, Zaman Park and outside the Jinnah House in Cantonment.
He said police had placed their names on the list of alleged terrorists and suspects involved in attacks on military installations, police vans and private buildings.
He said that the list swelled to 250 on Monday when more journalists reached the press club with complaints of abuse of power by police.
“Following the disturbing situation, I engaged caretaker Punjab information minister Aamir Mir who took up the matter with the chief minister”, the LPC president said.
On CM’s direction, the Punjab Home Department notified an eight-member committee called Punjab Journalists Protection Coordination Committee.
The members included the Punjab police DIG (Legal), presidents of the Lahore Press Club, Punjab Union of Journalists, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, representative of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting etc.
Despite these steps, he said, the police arrested more journalists and tortured them, Azam Chaudhry said.
He said the Lahore police also picked up father of a media worker (cameraman of a TV channel), and brother of another worker.
“We have received six serious complaints of police aggression against working journalists who had nothing to do with the May 9 violence and were just discharging their duties”, the LPC president said.
“Keeping in view police behavirour, a petition has also been moved to the Lahore High Court,” the LPC president said.
On the other hand, relatives of several wanted PTI workers who had left their houses to avoid police raids were living a miserable life. As they locked their houses in a panic situation, they could not collect essentials. A 50-year-old woman told this reporter that her young son was spotted in a CCTV footage when he was moving along with a mob towards the Jinnah House.
She said she learnt about her son’s involvement in the attacks and a case lodged against him under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
The next evening, she said, a police team raided her house when they were going to bed. “The broke open the main door, slapped her husband and launched massive house search.”
She said the police personnel were so much aggressive and annoyed that they spared no one and yelled insults.
During the next few hours, two more teams raided her home and repeated the same exercise as was done by the first police team.
She said since her family got extremely panicked, she decided to move somewhere to avoid further mental torture.
“We are now living in a two-marla rented house outside Lahore with limited basic facilities,” she said.
She said her other children were not going to schools/colleges and she was unsure if they had been expelled.
To a question, she said police were now raiding the residences of her close relatives in their search. A widow said her 17-year-old son working in a garments shop in Liberty had nothing to do with the PTI protest on May 9. She said her family had a known political affiliation with PML-N and voted in favours of Rohail Asghar in the last general elections.
She said she could produce evidence of her family’s support for the PML-N and that her son had left home to reach her workplace.
“I have visited a number of police stations, offices of the senior officers and even the jails since the arrest of my son in the wake of May 9 violence”, she said, adding that the police were not telling her about the whereabouts of her son, who was family’s only breadwinner.
Her other minor children were not going to school due to the panic and fear, she said adding that they had no money to buy food.
IGP Dr Usman Anwar said instructions had been issued to all the field police formations to restrict action to those suspected attackers who were involved in the May 9 riots.
He said specific directions had also been issued to the police officers to address the complaints of harassment of journalists and other people who were not wanted in the cases lodged in connection with the May 9 incidents.
“The Punjab police would ensure that the harassment and humiliation would not be meted out because our prime cause was to lay hands on the miscreants who attacked military installations and other buildings,” the IG said.