Farmers refuse to end protest, say home secretary used ‘threatening’ tone

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Protesting farmers who arrived in the capital on Wednesday refused to change their minds as the third round of talks with the government ended in deadlock.

The Kissan Ittehad, made up of farmers from across Punjab, demanded the restoration of the old tubewell electricity tariff of Rs 5.3 per unit and the removal of taxes and adjustments, among others.

According to the farmers, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah used “threatening language” during the talks and told them the government would not let protesters move into the red zone at any cost.

Speaking to reporters, the Home Secretary said a cabinet committee was working on the issue of reducing electricity bills for agricultural tube wells.

He said the panel would meet again on Monday to consider proposals in this regard.

Sanaullah said the “genuine” demands put forward by the farmers were taken “very seriously”, adding that the request to defer the tubewell bills had already been accepted and a notification to that effect had already been issued. “There is no justification for the sit-in,” he said.

A representative from Kissan Ittehad told reporters that the interior minister had warned that the government would not hesitate to use the state apparatus against farmers who had already been mobilized following the call to protest of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

Meanwhile, farmers have blamed the standoff on the administration’s “rejection of their demands”.

They said they were unhindered by the minister’s threats and vowed to march to the red zone if demands remained unmet.

Kissan Ittehad chairman Khalid Batth said the minister’s tone was “different” at the meeting and that the government should forget about using force against farmers.

“[In case negotiation fail] our next course of action is to go into the red zone,” the president added. The minister asked for time until Tuesday to respond to the demands, he said, adding that “we are committed to continuing the protest until our demands are accepted.”

Earlier, other groups of farmers joined the protesters in Khayaban Chowk, after reaching the capital from different parts of Punjab, including Okara, the officers said, adding that their numbers had risen to around 3,000.

Safety plan

Sources said police and paramilitary personnel deployed in the Blue Zone have been instructed to remain vigilant to thwart a possible march to the Red Zone.

According to the police security plan, the Khayaban-i-Suhrawardi road near the Serena hotel would be blocked by containers and barbed wire.

Two platoons of the Frontier Corps (FC) Riot Control Unit (ARU) each comprising 25 personnel were deployed near the hotel, the police official said, adding that two platoons were also deployed at the headquarters. of Nadra Chowk, also blocked with containers and barbed wire.

At least four ARU platoons were deployed at Express Chowk – blocked off by barbed wire – along with armed personnel carriers fitted with riot gear. A police platoon along with 18 ARU personnel were deployed at Marriot Chowk, the officers said, adding that Margalla Road was also blocked at the ISI picket and 18 police were deployed there.

As many as 17 police platoons, including four ARU platoons made up of 18 personnel each and six tear gas teams made up of 18 officials, were deployed around Khayaban Chowk, the officers said, adding that water cannons and vehicles armed troop carriers were also deployed. The special branch was tasked with deploying officials among protesters to gather intelligence, the officers added.

Likewise, the tear gas magazine manager was also deployed to the G-8 sector with three vehicles loaded with 6,000 long-range and short-range shells and as many cannons as the department had. All armed personnel carriers deployed in different locations were equipped with 500 long-range and short-range tear gas shells.

Police officials said the security division of the capital police was also responsible for the security of the red zone as well as all important facilities, adding that the capital administration had also asked to take provisions for ambulances, paramedics and fire engines.

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