This is a shocking picture.
I too was shocked to see it right on the top half of the front page of Dawn (29 December, 2006). I was even more shocked to read the details of this incident that took place in Rawalpindi:
Police broke up a protest demonstration organised by family members and relatives of missing persons, badly beating and arresting several of them after they tried to march to the GHQ to present a memorandum to the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff. More than a hundred people, mostly women and children belonging to the families of the disappeared, arrived in groups to the square in front of the FlashmanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Hotel. According to the organisers of the protest, the participants had planned to peacefully march to the GHQ to register their concern over the detention of their loved-ones, who they say, have been in the custody of the army and secret agencies for the last several years.
Eyewitnesses said the trouble began when a heavy contingent of police, led by SP Yasin Farooq, SP Muhammad Azam and DSP Rana Shahid, pushed some of the protesters inside the hotelÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s boundary wall, shoving and manhandling them badly. After some time more protesters arrived and started shouting slogans against the police. Those who had been detained inside the hotel also came out to join them. This led to skirmishes between police and the protesters. According to the eyewitnesses, the protest took a turn for the worse when the police stripped a young man, Mohammad bin Masood, the son of missing Masood Janjua. The witnesses said even then the police continued to drag him, finally throwing him into a police van.
The incident enraged other protesters, especially the manÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s young sister, who started crying and flagellating herself. The police also shoved aside the father of a missing man and later arrested him. After having failed to march to the GHQ, the protesters blocked the Mall Road for about three hours. Police and protesters fought running battles for some time. Scared by police highhandedness and arrests, a young girl and a small child lost consciousness and fell on the road, the eyewitnesses said.
Unbowed and determined, the protesters refused to leave the place, end the protest and open the road until the arrested men were released. Later, on an assurance from SP Azam that the detained men would be released, the protesters dispersed peacefully. However, the younger brother of detained Mohammad bin Masood told Dawn by telephone that his brother had not been released by the police. The eyewitnesses said that besides an old man and Mohammad bin Masood, several women had been detained and not released till late in the evening.
The report of the incident in The News, adds the following:
Placard-holding women and children held a demonstration close to Flashmans Hotel here. But the police force stopped the procession going beyond Flashmans Hotel. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe planned a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“freedom walkÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ and wanted to hand over a letter to the vice chief of army staff in the General Headquarters (GHQ),ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? said Amina Masood, whose husband Masood Ahmed Janjua has been missing since July 30, 2005. Masood is among at least 105 persons missing from all over the country during the last five to six years. The SSPs, SHOs and dozens of constables from various police stations of Rawalpindi were deployed at the roadsides and tried their best to disperse the procession that lasted nearly two hours.
A handful of policewomen were also present at the rally and helped their male colleagues once the protesting women tried to walk towards the GHQ. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œDo we belong to the same country,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? questioned one aggrieved woman from an SHO when she was stopped. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œDo we have arms in our hand? Why are you stopping us?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? she shouted. The women shouted slogans and demanded the release of their males before Eid-ul-Azha. Some of the women and their children were even crying. In an unfortunate incident that could easily have been avoided by the security personnel a young man, Mohammad bin Masood, son of Masood Ahmed, was dragged into a police van and forcibly driven away from the scene.
The shame here is not on the young man without his shalwar. It is on the police for allowing this to happen. And in some ways it is all our shame.
My first reaction on seeing the picture was that maybe the young man’s shalwar fell off in the scuffle. The News story calls it “unfortunate incident that could easily have been avoided”; Dawn, however, suggests that he was “stripped.” In either case, the indignity inflicted on the young man is reprehensible. Even more reprehensible is that 105 individuals are ‘missing’ without their families having any news of them.
Here at ATP we try to be as fair and even-handed as possible. We have praised the police in a number of posts when it has done well (here and here). We try to highlight what is blatantly wrong (here and here) when we see it. Silly attempts to spread lies is one thing; disappearances are quite another. They do not do anyone any good and cause irreparable harm to the reputation of the country, and to all of us. To those who worry about Pakistan’s image internationally, we have asked before, and we ask again: Who is giving Pakistan a bad name?
But this is not about ‘image.’ This is about the reality of disappearances. If these people have committed crimes, then let them be charged and presented in courts. And if they are not, then the guilt and the crime is not theirs, but of whoever holds them.