Ashfaq Langrial died on Nov. 5 following a police raid on a farmers’ protest. (Photo supplied)
Civil rights activists in Pakistan are demanding the arrest of police officers following the deaths of two farmers at protests in Lahore.
Hundreds attended the funeral of Dalbir Khan, who died on Nov. 8 in hospital. He was among more than 160 farmers who staged a two-day sit-in in the Thokar Niaz Baig area of Lahore to demand better rates for agricultural goods.
Another farmer, Ashfaq Langrial, died on Nov. 5 following injuries at a Nov. 4 protest that caused a massive traffic jam at the entrance to the city. Police used batons, fired tear gas and used water cannon to disperse the protest, injuring several farmers and journalists. Many were arrested at the protest organized by Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (Farmers United).
Media channels showed police superintendent Hafeezur Rehman ordering officers to use chemicals in the water sprayed by water cannon. “You know what you have to do. Pour the chemical plus water. Teach them a strict lesson,” he said.
“Down with the killer government,” “Down with Punjab police” shouted relatives of farmers protesting in front of Jinnah Hospital in Lahore.
Authorities claimed that Langrial died of a heart attack but Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee (PKRC), a network of peasant organizations, denied the claim.
“Police are conducting raids for the arrest of farmer leaders. Twelve farmers are still missing. We are saddened and in grief due to this injustice. We demand the arrest of Rehman for ordering the water sprayed on the farmers to be mixed with toxic chemicals, an inquiry into police brutality and recover of the missing farmers,” Farooq Tariq, general secretary of the PKRC, told a press conference at Lahore Press Club.
“Langrial was a healthy farmer. The government claims are based on lies and absolute falsehood. We also demand immediate suspension of the Lahore capital city police officer who supervised the operation. The farmers were protesting peacefully using their constitutional and democratic rights. Still, 187 farmers were named in the first information report.”
Farmers in Pakistan have been protesting for decades against low prices for their produce. Punjab’s government is presently purchasing 40 kilograms of wheat for 1,600 rupees (US$1). Farmers have demanded 2,000 rupees for wheat and 220 rupees for sugarcane.