(Published in Daily English “TheNews” on Thursday, December 09, 2010)
Protesters belonging to the Punjab Professors and Lecturers Association’s Joint Action Committee and students of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) were baton-charged after they managed to force their way through the main gate of the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday afternoon and broke the security cordon. According to the police, some of the students participating in the protest were brought to the venue by the IJT activists on the pretext that they would be protesting against the Punjab Assembly members who were about to amend the Blasphemy Law.
Forty teachers and students were arrested while dozens of others wounded. The rest of the protesters fled from the scene after the police resorted to baton charge. According to the police, around 300 protesters, including IJT students and teachers of the Joint Action Committee (JAC), participated in the protest, which turned violent after they tried to break through the Assembly security cordon.
They said the police had resorted to baton charge to stop the students attempting to pull down the Assembly gate. The protesting students broke the windscreen and windowpanes of the car of MPA Dr Zamarrud Yasmin, besides damaging chairs, tables, walk-through gates, security cameras and other furniture lying outside the Assembly, police added.
The protesters were raising slogans against the government for privatising the educational institutions and establishing the Boards of Governors (BoGs) at educational institutions which, they said, would make the college education costly for the common man.
They demanded the government to revoke the decision to privatise 26 colleges and handing them over to BoGs. The protesting students also pelted stones at the police and the Assembly building. Afterwards, the fleeing mob also torched two buses on The Mall. Police have registered cases against the arrested professors and students. According to the police, some of the students participating in the protest were brought to the venue by the IJT activists on the pretext that they would be protesting against the Punjab Assembly members who were about to amend the Blasphemy Law.
Police quoted one of the arrested students as saying that they had joined the protest because the IJT had convinced them that the PA was planning to abolish the Blasphemy Law through a bill on Wednesday.
Police said the majority of the students had held the IJT activists of the Civil Lines College responsible for the episode, saying that they had cheated the Civil Lines and the MAO College students on the BoG issue.
According to some Civil Lines College students, the IJT activists had closed all doors of the college. With sticks in their hands, the activists had forced the students to join the protest to be held in front of the Punjab Assembly, saying the government was planning to abolish the Blasphemy Law.
The JAC teachers said that they were protesting against the establishment of BoGs at 26 government colleges in the province. They said that seven people — including JAC President Dr Zahid of Government College Gujranwala, General Secretary Tanveer Shah of Government Emerson College, Multan and four students — who had gone inside the Assembly for negotiations had been arrested by the police.
Joint Action Committee Chairman and Punjab Professors and Lecturers Association President Professor Dr Zahid Ahmad Sheikh said that they had decided to hold a sit-in before the Punjab Assembly to demand the government to withdraw its notification on the establishment of BoGs at 26 public colleges of the province.
He said that professors and lecturers from across the province would participate in the sit-in. He said that the Punjab government had formed a committee under provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to resolve the issue but to no avail.