LAHORE - The student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami once again created a mess in the city on Monday, descending on roads and torching public property in protest against a police swoop to get vacated a hostel from Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba (IJT) activists.
On the call of administration, police raided Punjab University hostels and arrested 21 IJT students over resistance to evacuation. The administration was vacating Hostel No 16 for accommodating girl students, as it is adjacent to other hostel blocks housing the girls.
Later, infuriated Jamiat vagabonds torched a bus and blocked various roads near the university campus and other colleges, where its wings have strong presence. The IJT activists also snatched keys of some vehicles creating a prolonged traffic jam on the Canal Raod and the Pekhywal-Barkat Market section of the university main road. The PU administration lodged a complaint with police Sunday night against some students who were not evacuating university Hostel Number 16. The police raided at hostel in the morning at around 7:15am and arrested some the troublemakers. According to police and university administration, bottles of alcohol, Bhang (drink made from cannabis leaves) and a bullet was recovered from room 345 which was allotted to IJT Nazim, Rao Adnan, who was illegally residing there. An official of the varsity told The Nation that IJT activists managed to snatch two bottles of liquor from the police and fled the scene.
Later, the IJT workers forcibly stopped a passenger bus at Wahdat Road near Naqsha Stop and set the bus ablaze. However, no passenger was harmed. They also forcibly stopped the public transport, snatched keys of buses and blocked the traffic on Canal Road and Campus underpass. Massive traffic jam was observed at Canal Road and long queues of vehicles including ambulances were seen stuck on both sides of the road. Buses were also used to block traffic on the main university road.
The recent spell of skirmishes between university administration and IJT started on Friday when IJT workers detained two teachers of University Law College in their rooms in protest against administration’s plan to get evacuated a canteen from a defaulting contractor, who had been catering to IJT needs for years.
The situation remained tense in the university and low attendance was observed on Monday as number of students did not attend classes due to ongoing violent situation. Those who did attend classes faced severe problems while returning home as PU bus service as well as the local transport were suspended.
Lahore CCPO told the media that 21 students had been arrested on Monday. He said no one would be allowed to take the law into one’s hands. The police officer said that a case would be lodged against those responsible for setting the bus on fire.
But in a statement issued here on Monday, an IJT spokesman rejected all the allegations leveled against the student organisation, which has a history of illegal and violent activities. According to provincial education minister Rana Mashood, cases under the terrorism act have been registered against students accused of misbehaving with professors. While talking to media at Punjab Assembly, the minister said that they would not let anyone ruin the peaceful environment of the varsity. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told the media that authorities would initiate a crackdown against the miscreants.
Addressing a press conference at PU Executive Club, Hall Council Chairman Prof Dr Muhammad Akhter said that girls had been shifted to the vacated hostel the same day after evacuation. He has said the number of enrolled girls was almost equal to the number of boys but previously there were only 10 hostels for girls against boys’ 18 hostels.
Dr Akhter said that boys hostels’ had more boarding capacity than required as last year almost 250 hostel seats went vacant. Moreover, he said Hostel 16 was evacuated after providing the occupant students with alternative accommodation. By Sunday the hostel was almost vacant but some 10-15 activists of Jamiat tried to maintain occupancy of some rooms. The administration then sought police’s help which got the rooms vacated and arrested some IJT activists. The professor said that during the checking, three bottles of liquor, some quantity of “bhung”, a bullet and cards were found in the room of IJT Nazim Rao Adnan, and media was witness to that. He said when girls were shifting to the hostel, IJT activists hurled stones at them but the female students’ remained determined. He said the vacated hostel would cater to the needs of almost 200 girls.
Dr Akhter said that PU teachers, employees and students were thankful to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for taking strong notice of the incident and not accepting any pressure in this regard. Academic Staff Association President Prof Dr Ehsan Sharif, General Secretary Javed Sami and other administrative officers were present on the occasion.
An IJT spokesman said it was not strange that bullets and empty bottles of alcohol were recovered from the hostel, claiming that even rocket launchers and hand grenades could have been recovered, had the vice chancellor wanted so. In a statement, he said that after evacuation the hostel was under full control of police and university for at least four hours and no one was allowed to get inside.
PU spokesman said that if a terrorist can be arrested from the room of Jamiat nazim then the recovery of liquor bottles and bhung was not a big issue. He said in the past, many illicit things including drugs and unethical material had been found from the rooms of nazims of Jamiat. He said that this was the real face of IJT that it puts religious material on shelves but hid liquor bottles and bhung under the clothes. He said that on one side Jamiat was demanding more buses and on the other it was setting buses and property on fire.