Major general locked in, gates shut, discrimination alleged
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army-run Canteen Stores Department (CSD) witnessed an unprecedented protest Tuesday when its top management including Managing Director Maj. General (r) Anwar Saeed was locked inside the headquarters after they served termination letters to around 130 contractual and regular employees, and that too in the month of Ramazan.
The CSD employees who have not yet been sacked also joined the protest forming an assembly of 300 protesters who locked the offices in addition to the main gate. The top management was only allowed to leave the head office around 5pm when the employees adjourned protest for today.
As the MD tried to cool down the protesting employees pledging that he was ready to re-interview those who considered their termination as unjustified, his offer was rejected as one of the sacked employees demanded MD’s interview first saying he himself was ‘product of sifarish.’
The downsizing of low-salaried employees is apparently being carried out to induct retired army officers at different positions at higher wages as 15 retired colonel and brigadiers have been appointed this month, alleged the protesters.
The top management was kept locked for several hours right from the moment the termination letters were distributed.The employees, all of them civilians, refused to receive the letters at any cost whereas the MD was reluctant to reverse the decision he took.
As the CSD employees in Peshawar and Lahore have also been terminated, they are joining their colleagues in Rawalpindi on Wednesday as the protest enters in second day to be staged at the CSD headquarters.
The CSD is a chain of 140 retail stores that serve the armed forces personnel, civil employees, residents and their dependents throughout the country. A serving lieutenant general, quarters master general who sits in the GHQ, is the Chairman of the CSD. Its legal status is undetermined whether it falls under the control of Defence Ministry or is an autonomous body. Although its vehicles carry the number plates with ‘Ministry of Defence’ inscribed over then, however, the ministry officials dispute this claim.
The ISPR confirmed the lay-offs being carried out in the CSD, saying it is part of the ongoing process of right-sizing. The MD CSD was not available for comments and Director HR of CSD was reluctant to speak on this issue.
Mohsin Rizwan, a graduate in the business administration who works as Junior Computer Assistant (JCA) against a meagre salary of Rs8000 is a regular employee for the last six years. He was among those terminated without being served any show-cause notice or offered a grace-period of one-month or so to arrange an alternative job.
All those who were issued termination letters were asked not to come to office from Wednesday. The termination turned out to be a surprise bombshell as they were kept in the dark until the letters were delivered.
As the MD tried to calm down the protesting officials telling them that the decision had been taken on the basis of performance, Mohsin raised his hand asking the MD whether he knew him. The answer was in negative. Mohsin then said how he was terminated without being evaluated. The MD said he was ready to re-interview all those who wanted so.
Mohsin said the MD himself was inducted on sifarish (not on merit) hence he did not have the right to examine those who were inducted after proper testing and interview procedures.
The MD then said, Mohsin told The News, that he would not reverse the termination decision of any employee sparking further anger among the employees who have vowed to continue the protest until the decision was taken back.
The protesting employees complained of discriminatory treatment to civilians in terms of pay scales and privileges. They alleged that a civilian shop manager receives from Rs20,000 to Rs25,000 per month while retired colonels have been inducted against the same positions at Rs55,000 plus other facilities including car etc.