Several civil society, political and trade union activists, students and teachers gathered outside the Karachi Press Club on Sunday afternoon demanding the release of Professor Dr Riaz Ahmed, an academician and political activist.
Ahmed, who teaches at the University of Karachi’s Applied Chemistry Department and is a Cambridge University PhD, was taken away outside the press club by the law enforcement agencies on Saturday afternoon just before he was about to address a press conference there to demand medical treatment for Dr Hasan Zafar Arif, an elderly retired professor who is in police custody.
Dr Ahmed’s wife said he had been handed over to police on Sunday and booked for “possessing an illegal weapon”.
His colleagues, Dr Mehar Afroz Murad, a retired professor and former head of the University of Karachi’s general history department, was also arrested along with him but later released.
Dr Ahmed’s arrest sparked outrage as many rights activists, academicians, students and political activists gathered outside the press club to express solidarity with the professor and pressure the government to release him. Holding banners and placards demanding Ahmed’s release, the participants of the demonstration maintained that fake cases were being filed against him and described his arrest as a move to curb the basic fundamental right of freedom of expression.
The participants said Dr Ahmed was a peaceful rights activist who had always participated in movements for the rights of the downtrodden and because of that he had been picked up and booked in a fake case.
Some prominent names among the protesters included Nasir Mansoor, Sartaj Khan, Abdul Wahid Baloch, Hani Baloch, Khurram Ali, Kaleem Durrani, Dr Hafeez Jamali, Nighat Siddiqui, Professor Hasnain, Ely Erlecan, Arshad Kundi, Dr. Jamil Akther, Saeed Baloch, Saleha Aapa, Abria Ashfaq, Shujauddin Siddique, Ikram Ullah, Shafiq Awan and Naeem Sadiq.
It was also announced that the future course of action would be decided at a meeting at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Karachi office on Monday (today). Dr Zafar Arif
Dr Zafar Arif was arrested by Rangers on October 22 last year when he entering was entering the Karachi Press Club.
He was scheduled to deliver a second press conference on behalf of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London after an earlier one he delivered on behalf of the party on 16 October. Dr Arif was charged under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance for inciting public disorder and detained at the Karachi Central Prison.
On November 17, Dr Arif’s detention was extended for 30 more days by the home department. On December 20, the home department ordered Dr Arif’s release. However, he and another MQM-London leader Amjadullah Khan were rearrested minutes after their release by the Azizabad police and taken to the police station where he was held in custody overnight.
The Amnesty International said throughout his detention, Dr Arif has been denied access to a lawyer and medical attention.
He is a heart patient who has undergone two heart bypasses. His lawyer argued before a court that the veteran professor was aged and sick and needed proper medical care.
It was contended that continuous detention of Prof Arif was against his fundamental rights and if there was any case against him, he should be presented in a court.
MQM-London leader Wasay Jalil told the media that Dr Ahmed and Dr Murad were not affiliated with his party and were just professors raising their voice against the illegal detention of Dr Arif on an independent basis.
KUTS condemns arrest
The Karachi University Teachers Society (KUTS) condemned Dr Riaz Ahmed’s arrest and demanded his immediate release.
In a statement, KUTS president Shakeel Farooqui said teachers were being arrested and implicated in fake cases.
He added that Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) president Dr Humayun Khan and general secretary Dr Mahboob Hussain, Sindh Agricultural University, Tando Jam teachers association head Dr Naimutallah Leghari, FAPUASA Islamabad’s Dr Mohammad Asif and Sindh University teachers association chief Dr Azhar Ali Shah too have condemned Dr Ahmed’s arrest and express solidarity with him.
The KUTS president warned that if Dr Ahmed was not released, a countrywide protest campaign would be organised. He added that no citizens could be deprived of their right to freedom of expression.
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