A haywire protest on high-tension wires

LAHORE: They say that desperation is the raw material of a drastic change. This ingredient was well used by a motorcycle rickshaw driver when he was fined for a ‘traffic violation’ for the third time in three consecutive days.

Muhammad Mazhar Khan, a father of four, should have realised that it was a bad week for him. After two challans in two days, he should have learned from his past experiences with the no-longer-nice traffic wardens. Like many others, he was also slapped with a traffic ticket on Friday for reasons better known to the warden who issued it. His source of income, the rickshaw, was also impounded.“I was looking for passengers when a traffic warden stopped me and issued a slip. When I told him I have already been issued two tickets, he slapped and tortured me,” said Khan.

In protest, the driver climbed up a high-tension electricity tower in the Sherankot area.Soon, a large number of rickshaw drivers from across the city also gathered on the spot to show solidarity with their colleague and blocked the main Bund Road.Within an hour, the number of protesters swelled to hundreds, who were then joined by wagon and bus drivers, all shouting against the discriminatory attitude of the traffic police towards transporters. A dozen other rickshaw drivers also climbed the high-tension tower.

Thousands of residents of Sherankot and its surrounding areas also gathered on the spot after coming to know about the hours-long protest, baton-charged. The protesters then blocked all roads to and from Babu Sabu Interchange, and clashed with police who had come there to disperse them. Hundreds of vehicles, including ambulances, got stuck on the roads due to the blockade.The area soon turned into a battlefield, with police baton-charging the protesters and they retaliating with bricks and stones. Some policemen also received a beating at the hands of angry protesters, who were later rescued by some local residents.

The police resorted to aerial firing when the situation went out of control, but in vain. During the firing, two persons including a cameraman of a private TV channel received bullets, and were given medical aid on the spot.The SSP (operations), chief traffic officer (CTO), heavy contingent of police and PML-N MNA Khwaja Imran Nazir also reached the spot to talk the protesters out of the protest.The officials, however, failed to convince the rickshaw drivers to come down from the tower.

WAPDA authorities were asked to suspend power passing through that electricity tower, which caused a massive blackout in several areas of the city.CTO Sarfaraz Falki tried to pacify the protesters, but they did not listen to him and instead attacked him with stones. Meanwhile, an angry mob stoned the factory of former local nazim Habibullah Warraich, but the area was cleared when the guards of the factory opened fired at them.There has been no confirmation on whether the two persons who received bullets were injured by the guards or the local police.

After hours of protest, PML-N leader Khawaja Imran Nazir with SSP (Operations) Sajjad Manj succeeded in calming down the protesters and ensured the drivers that they would not be mistreated in the future.The SSP announced to withdraw the challan issued to the rickshaw driver, adding that those who opened fire would be booked after identification. Meanwhile, CTO suspended the warden who had slapped Mazhar Khan, and also ordered to cancel the fine ticket. – Dailytimes