ISLAMABAD: Capital police used a heavy hand on Friday to push back protesting farmers who planned on reaching the Parliament House.
The farmers had been protesting at D-Chowk to demand subsidies on fertiliser and electricity. They had planned to reach the Parliament House as the budget was being announced. However, Islamabad Police successfully pushed back the protestors. Police used water-cannon and then baton charged the protestors. Tear-gas shells were also used to disperse the protesters. The protest had been organised by the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) at D-Chowk in Islamabad.
After the sit-ins of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in 2014, protests had been prohibited in the Red Zone.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) had already demolished the stairs present alongside the road on the direction of the interior minister where protesters used to sit. Police had also placed containers to restrict access to D-Chowk.
However, the farmers used alternative routes to reach the roundabout where the protest was held. The police officials told Daily Times that they had only "responded" when protestors tried to enter in the Red Zone. In addition to extra police contingents, the Frontier Constabulary was also called in to handle the situation. A large number of farmers were also taken into custody by police. Dozens of others were also injured. An emergency was declared in all hospitals of the capital.
Muhammad Hussain, one of the protesters, said that police had beaten the protesters and arrested dozens of them.
The protesters were claiming that the government had failed to bring reforms for the betterment of the farmers' community. They demanded reduction in taxes on agriculture and a revision in the prices of all agriculture products. The protesters chanted slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and threatened to seal Islamabad if their demands were not met.
The metro bus service in the city also remained suspended for hours. However, when the protestors dispersed, the service resumed.
PPP: Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari promptly responded to the issue and directed Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah to reach the site of the protest to express solidarity with farmers.
Shah sympathised with the demands of the protesters. "The government has done nothing to reform the agriculture sector in the past four years," he said. "Today, the budget is being presented and the farmers are protesting on the streets. The PPP will always stand by you. We believe that Pakistan will only succeed when the poor man is well-fed and his children go to school," Shah said.
PML-Q: Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) senior central leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said that the new budget had failed to provide any relief to the farming community.
In a statement issued on Friday, he said that the government had put more burden on all segments of society, especially farmers.
"The increase announced in salaries and pensions of government servants is very low as compared to inflation. Nawaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar should stop pleasing Indian farmers. Their Kisan packages were just a pack of lies. The farmers have not got anything from them," he said.
He strongly condemned the violence against farmers protesting for their rights in Islamabad. "Holding peaceful protests is the right of everyone. However, the rulers unleashed a wave of violence against them. There is no justification for the brutal violence as well as the arrest of farmers. These people are the backbone of the national economy. The rulers have once again proved that the current government is the enemy of the farmers," he said. He said that a country that treated its farmers thus could not be prosperous. He said that Nawaz Sharif did not want to annoy India in any way. "This is the reason that import of Indian tomatoes, potatoes and other food items is being promoted at the cost of our own farmers," he said.