LAHORE  - On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Punjab police Wednesday manhandled dozens of blind persons as they staged a peaceful protest outside the Lahore Press Club for increase in job quota for special people.

The blind gathered outside the press club in the morning and continued protesting till the evening but authorities, as usual, turned a blind eye to the issue.

Later, the protesters started marching towards the Chief Minister’s Secretariat on 7-Club Road from the Shimla Hill when police showed up on Davis Road.

Policemen (man)handled the blind as they ‘refused to budge’ since former president Asif Ali Zardari’s convoy was scheduled to pass through The Mall.

Eyewitnesses endorsed the manhandling but a top cop denied, though he suspended five policemen and ordered an inquiry.

This untoward incident came when, according to DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf, the police reached there to avoid any ‘untoward incident’ while a VVIP movement was due on The Mall.

“The police wanted to stop the protesters from reaching the road. It was done for their safety. Five policemen have been suspended and an inquiry is underway,” the DIG said. Source said SP (Headquarters) Omar Saeed would submit his report to the DIG.

After the media flashed the tragic tale, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif took notice of the incident and asked the DIG (Operations) to submit a report.

There were reports that the police also baton-charged the blind. However, the Civil Lines SP claimed that no one was baton-charged and the policemen only tried to stop the blind from entering the Club Road. Police officials said that they facilitated the protesters by arranging a meeting with the department concerned so that their issues could be resolved.

On the other hand, a member of the Pakistan Blind Association said that the police thrashed his colleagues when they tried to reach the Chief Minister’s Office. “Police never stop political protests and religious rallies on The Mall. Why we are being discriminated and insulted in this society,” questioned a 35-year-old protester while talking to reporters on Davis Road.

The clash also caused worst traffic mess at The Mall and its adjacent arteries. The police diverted the traffic towards already packed roads which further multiplied the miseries of the motorists.

Later, the protesters reached the Club Chowk and chanted slogans against the police and the Punjab government. Lahore District Coordination Officer Muhammad Usman also rushed to the site and held a series of parleys with the protesters. He assured the protesters that he would arrange a special meeting of blind men with the Punjab chief minister and all their genuine problems would be redressed.

The Blind Association late Wednesday called off the protest after the authorities assured them of fulfilling their demands.