Lahore: Awami Workers Party and the Democratic Student Alliance held a protest demonstration at Liberty Roundabout on Friday to express solidarity with party activist Hassan Turi and the residents of I-11 Katchi Abadi, Islamabad, who have been arrested and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act for protesting against eviction drive in Islamabad.
AWP General Secretary Farooq Tariq said in a statement that the attempt to de-humanise the issue, was a conscious attempt by the government to distract media from the fact that evictions of Katchi Abadi residents is a political issue and not a bureaucratic one.
As a result, peaceful activists and working-class labourers have been made to look like terrorists. He said the AWP had received reports that Hassan Turi had been tortured and abused in police custody. He said this was a continuation of existing establishment policy to criminalise protest and to use the anti-terror laws on workers and political activists.
He maintained that the AWP would continue to struggle and hold protests against the government’s decision to carry-out coercive and anti-poor policies.
“There has been a continued pattern of the anti-terror laws applied to harass and abuse political activists and workers, this is something that this party will continue to fight against,” said Tariq.
In the statement, he said that when peasants in Okara had agitated for tenancy rights and questioned a shady deal involving multi-nationals, the activists and peasants were booked under anti-terror laws. In Faisalabad, when power loom workers protested for minimum wage, the workers and activists were booked under ATA laws. When AWP vice president Baba Jan led protests for Attabad lake victims, he too, was booked under anti-terror laws.
Ramis Sohail of DSA said the government’s actions yesterday had crossed all democratic norms. #freehassanturi represents a struggle of residents who are victims of brutality meted out by the police. He said reports of torture and injuries had made it necessary for all progressive students and the youth to unite and show solidarity with the residents of I-11 Katchi Abadi.
“This is not about one person, it’s about a long-term struggle of the residents of I-11 who have been struggling for a just and equitable society. the terror they faced will not be forgotten and their voices will not be silenced,” said Ramis Sohail.
AWP workers, students, unionists and civil society activists attended the protest.