LAHORE - A young nurse is battling for life, several injured, and many put behind bars as baton-wielding police broke up the nurses’ rally by attacking dozens of protesters in front of the Punjab Assembly building on Friday afternoon.
“Our young member, 26-year-old Amna, has succumbed to police torture. She was seven months pregnant,” Rozina Manzoor, President of the Young Nurses Association told this scribe. On the other hand, the government officials did not confirm the death. A police officer said that the nurse was being provided treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and she has been recovering. “The government is telling a lie. They (officials) are trying to hush up the incident,” insisted Rozina. The nurses’ association president also claimed that the pregnancy of their colleague was terminated which led to her death.
Hospital sources say the victim has been put on the ventilator but her baby in womb was removed because of complications. The authorities barred media crews from visiting emergency ward of the hospital.
About 200 nurses rallied outside the provincial assembly at The Mall and tied to force their entry into building when the policewomen wielded to batons and brutally assaulted the protesters. The policemen also jumped into the battle when some nurses overpowered the policewomen and gave them a good thrash.
It was not clear who ordered the police to brutally attack the nurses. There were conflicting reports. A police official on the condition of anonymity told this scribe that the verbal orders for baton-charge were given by no other than the Punjab inspector general of police (IGP). When contacted, Khan Baig was not available for his comments.
However, a Special Branch official said that the police launched the crackdown on the advice of provincial law minister Rana Sana Ullah, who directed the police hierarchy to ‘clear the mess.’
Meanwhile, Rana Sana Ullah told reporters that the police were merely performing their duties.
After chairing a meeting to discuss the South Punjab problems at the Chief Minister’s House, Sana said that as per the order of the high court all types of rallies and protests are banned at The Mall. He said that the police merely performed their duty to disperse the protesters. The baton-charge however, is regrettable, he added.
Police officers including SP (Cantonment division) Omar Riaz Cheema and DSP Raza Safdar Kazmi were on the spot when the cops assaulted the unarmed nurses.
Police arrested over a dozen nurses and locked them up in the Shadman and Race Course police stations. No case was registered against the protesters.
Later, a police spokesman claimed that all the nurses were released from the police station.
As the TV news channels flashed the footage of police torture on the protesters, the nurses in all the major public hospitals went on strike condemning the rulers for implementing anti-government policies.
An official of the Health Department confirmed that the nurses stopped working in the Lahore General Hospital, Services Hospital, Mayo Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and Jinnah Hospital to protest against the police torture.
Hundreds of patients had to suffer a lot of hardships as the nurses stopped working in the public hospitals.
Shahnaz Kausar, Secretary of the nurses’ union, demanded the Punjab chief minister to punish the police officers who assaulted the poor protesters. All the nurses are conveyed not to provide medical treatment to the policemen in the public hospitals, a local news channel reported on Friday night. The provincial government has ordered a judicial inquiry to probe into the incident.
Hundreds of nurses have launched a protest campaign in the province, forcing the government to regularise their services. Nurses from various public hospitals have joined the protest campaign to press the authorities to improve their pay and service structure.
Young Doctors Association, Pakistan Medical Association, Academy of Family Physicians and Paramedics Alliance have condemned baton charge on nurses and demanded exemplary punishment to Police personnel involved in this brutal act.
Demanding termination of officers responsible for torture on protesting ad hoc nurses, YDA announced to withdraw treatment facilities to police officers.
In an emergent meeting held at PMA House, office bearers of doctors body demanded impartial probe and stringent action against responsible officers.
Addressing a hurriedly called press conference at DG Health office, Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab Kh Salman Rafiq said that no nurse died due to Police torture. Secretary Health Babar Hayat Tarar, DG Health Dr Zahid Pervaiz and DG Nursing were also present.
Kh Salman Rafiq said that the Chief Minister has directed judicial inquiry of the tragic incident of baton charge on nurses. He said that decision was taken at the highest level that no action would be taken against protesting nurses. He said that judicial commission would probe that whether nurses tried to come on The Mall forcibly to stage a sit in or Police resorted to baton charge without provocation. He said that the government was trying to convince ad hoc nurses that their services could be regularized only through Punjab Public Service Commission. He said that the government has forwarded a requisition to the PPSC for recruitment of 1450 nurses and those already working on ad hoc basis would be given additional marks. He said that a summary has also been forwarded for confirmation of those working on contract basis. He said that 90 per cent of nurses demands have already been accepted and there was no reason to continue protest.