Update: The DPO in Sadiqabad issued an order for departmental action while suspending the ASI for misbehaving with a foreign cyclist.
Explaining the incident, DPO Rahim Yar Khan Rizwan Omar Gondal said that 3 foreign cyclists entered Sadiqabad from Rahim Yar Khan limits from Sindh on Saturday and they were provided security as per SOP.
The cyclists were adamant that no security should be provided to them, upon which the fight took place, says the DPO.
According to the police spokesperson, the foreign cyclist sprayed the ASI in anger, on which the ASI slapped the foreign tourist.
Moreover, departmental action is being taken against the concerned police official by suspending him for inappropriate behavior.
Previously, it was reported three foreign tourists cycling in the Sadiqabad area of South Punjab have raised serious allegations of assault and sexual harassment against the Punjab police. They claim to have entered their jurisdictions on January 25.
A video of the attack on the tourists surfaced on Saturday where a policeman was seen using foul language and snatching the camera from the one documenting it. It was one of many alleged assaults that the cycling tourists, namely Alex Sidney of Italy, Charlie West of the UK, and Motahhareh Abbasi of Iran, had been facing since they entered Punjab. They have always been having a Punjab police escort supposed to ensure their security but the police allegedly attacked them.
Dawn talked to the tourists and the details narrated by them included horrific details of abuse and being manhandled brutally by a policeman, earlier identified as ASI Liaqat. Alex said the situation escalated as the officers reportedly grabbed him by the hair and subjected him to physical abuse.
Regarding the version of police, the tourists were stopped from going to Kashmore, Sindh, an unsafe area, when the confrontation happened. However, Alex said they were not going towards Kashmore but Lahore. He said they had cycled in Sindh, mostly escorted by police, but did not face any such incident there. In Punjab, he claimed, they had taken the same route as was told by police. According to him, it was not the first assault by police. “We entered Punjab on January 25 and started having assaults and harassment from January 26. In earlier assaults, we were hit by police vehicles and motorcycles as they continued telling us that we were going the wrong way. We told them that we were going to a hotel on the national highway. They would try to knock us down.”
Motahhareh said the policemen in Punjab would drive their vehicles or ride motorcycles very close to her, sometimes making her get off the road. “On January 26, I fell down and got injured when a policeman stopped his motorcycle suddenly in front of her. And it was quite deliberate. I fell down and injured my leg while my heavy bags fell on me.” Motahhareh later got medical treatment for her leg.
About this alleged assault, Alex said they went to Ahmedpur Lamma Police Station and asked the policeman on the desk to register a complaint, but he refused to do so, asking them to take help from social media.
Motahhareh also raised serious allegations of sexual harassment against police in Pakistan. “Many times, they asked me for my WhatsApp number and kept on insisting. When I asked them the reason, they would start insulting me. At the start I gave my phone number to some of them and they started asking for pictures and sending creepy messages. For the last one month, I have been receiving creepy messages from Pakistani policemen.” She alleged that policemen from all three provinces they travelled in harassed her and the situation was worse in Punjab.
A policeman in Punjab held her hand forcibly for many minutes, said Alex. When asked whether there was a language barrier between the policemen and the tourists, Alex said some of the policemen spoke good English. “Whenever we stopped at some point to have a break, they would continue telling us it’s not safe here and it would be safe after a few kilometers. In fact, they wanted us to go out of their jurisdictions quickly but the next escort would do the same, telling us lies about the route as well.”
Alex said they felt safer without police as the common Pakistanis were very good and hospitable towards them and added that many times in Sindh, they did not have police escort and it was very safe.
Alex said they were staying in Sadiqabad near the site where they were assaulted by police as Motahhareh’s leg was recovering, rejecting the earlier police report that they had left the area for Lahore. He said he wanted to cycle through Punjab and meet the people who are very good. He said they felt safe when they were on their own without police and were in fact more in danger in presence of their escort, which ironically was there to protect them.
Charlie West wanted to cycle separately towards Lahore as he rides it fast but the situation is unclear now.
Police in Rahim Yar Khan and Sadiqabad have not provided their official version. However, Dawn’s sources in Rahim Yar Khan police said the tourists had left Sadiqabad hotel they were staying in on Saturday and now they were staying at a restaurant along a filling station in the middle of Sadiqabad and Rahim Yar Khan. The sources denied the allegations of assault but insisted that police escort was there for the tourists’ security.
Alex started his travel on bicycle from Italy in 2022 and cycled through Europe during the last two years. He was joined by Mohtahhare in Tehran when he was travelling towards Pakistan. They entered Pakistan from the Balochistan-Iran border and cycled through Balochistan and Sindh. In Karachi, they were joined by Charlie West who landed in Karachi from the UK.