PML-N condemns ‘torture’ of party workers at symbolic inauguration of Karachi’s Green Line project

PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said on Thursday that his party’s workers had been “tortured” by security personnel and subjected to “state-sponsored violence” in Karachi’s Nazimabad No 7 — where he had arrived to perform a symbolic inauguration of the Green Line Bus Rapid Transit project — terming the incident “condemnable”.
Iqbal, along with PML-N workers and other party leaders, including Muhammad Zubair, Miftah Ismail, Kheal Das Kohistani, Nehal Hashmi, Sorath Thebo and Ali Akbar Gujjar, had reached the site of the project for a symbolic inauguration today — just a day before Prime Minister Imran is expected to inaugurate the transport service.
The situation escalated when Iqbal was stopped from moving further after his arrival at the site. He, however, raised his hand at the spot he was standing as a gesture to signify that he had performed the symbolic inauguration.
A melee was witnessed at the site as PML-N workers and leaders were stopped from going towards the pedestrian bridge built as part of the project, and a video of the incident shows Rangers personnel stopping them from moving forward.
PML-N Karachi chapter general secretary Nasiruddin Mehmood claimed, that PML-N workers also faced hindrances when they had tried to visit the project’s site on Wednesday night.
According to him, private guards did not allow them to reach the site, and when they visited it again on Thursday morning, they were stopped by Rangers and police.
Mehmood said when they told law enforcers that they were there only for the symbolic inauguration of the project, security personnel said they had been asked by the federal government to stop them.
“When they [PML-N workers] were pushed back, they went and stood at some distance,” he said, adding that after Iqbal reached the site in the afternoon, he was also stopped by paramilitary personnel.
Mehmood estimated that around 200 to 250 PML-N workers were present on the occasion and they were “pushed back and baton-charged”.
“Ahsan Iqbal was beaten with sticks twice and a leader from the party’s women wing, Perveen Bashir, suffered bruises on her finger when she was hit,” he said, adding that party leader Sorath Thebo also fell down amid the ruckus and suffered injuries.
“We were peacefully demonstrating and did not want to challenge the writ of the state and yet, we were subjected to [authorities’] high-handedness,” he said.
Later, while speaking to the media, Iqbal said PML-N workers had been subjected to “state-sponsored violence” and that he had also been hit on his arms with sticks.
“A security institution tortured [our] political workers,” he said, adding that one of his party’s workers had been injured in the incident.
Without naming any institution, he alleged that the incumbent government had been using a law enforcement agency for political purposes the same way it had been using police.
He went on to criticise the government for “using force against unarmed political workers but appearing helpless when dealing with terrorists”.
“We are glad that [we] spilled our blood for this inauguration,” he remarked. “I have been shot before and I take pride in the fact that my blood has been spilled once again in Karachi.”
The PML-N leader said the way his party was treated on the occasion was “condemnable”.
Meanwhile, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif also condemned the incident and demanded an investigation into the matter and action against those responsible.
In a statement, he alleged that “Rangers used force against PML-N leaders and workers on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan”.
“Ahsan Iqbal and PML-N workers being subjected to baton-charge, torture and ill-treatment is condemnable and unfortunate,” he said. “Political workers being tortured is unacceptable.”
Speaking about the Green Line project, Iqbal told reporters in Karachi that it was launched by the PML-N government in 2016 and its foundation was laid by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He added that the project was supposed to reach completion in 2018, alleging that its execution was delayed because it was initiated by his party.
The Green Line project has suffered several hiccups over the years since its groundbreaking in February 2016. The project was originally estimated to get completed within a year with an estimated cost of Rs16.85 billion funded by the federal government.
However, it took more than five years and Rs35bn to finish and years of frustration, stress and painful experiences of hundreds of thousands of Karachiites who had to trudge through main Shershah Suri Road every day during the painfully slow construction of the project.
Lamenting this, Iqbal commented that Karachiites were facing troubles due to the city’s poor transport infrastructure.
The Green Line project, he said, could not even be completed in three years.
“But we are glad that this government has been taking credit for projects launched by the PML-N,” he added.
Referring to Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar’s announcement of Prime Minister Imran inaugurating the Green Line project on December 10 (tomorrow), he commented: “Those who have been unfairly claiming a right to the project will come tomorrow.”
Zubair, who was also present on the occasion, said Prime Minister Imran need not visit Karachi tomorrow for the inauguration as those who had launched the project had inaugurated it.
He added that the use of force against PML-N workers was condemnable.
Earlier, Iqbal also criticised the incumbent government for “ruining the progress of Karachi started by the PML-N government in the past”.
“We had improved the economy of Karachi,” he said, adding that today the metropolis needed water, electricity and cleanliness and peace. “If these facilities are provided to this city, it could become Shanghai,” the PML-N leader said.
Iqbal said the PML-N had worked for the betterment of Karachi even after it did not get many votes from the metropolis, highlighting that Pakistan’s progress was linked to Karachi’s progress.

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