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Pakistan

Web Desk
February 11, 2021

After police, protesters clash in Islamabad's Red Zone, govt ready to give salary increase

Pakistan

Web Desk
Thu, Feb 11, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The government has agreed to a 20% salary increase for its employees after talks with representatives of the protesting employees in Islamabad.

Sources were quoted as saying by Geo News that the talks were held at Defence Minister Pervez Khattak's house.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid has instructed the Islamabad administration to release all arrested employees immediately.

Sources say a delegation of the government employees has been assured of a 20% increase in their salaries and the release of all arrested government employees.

A notification for it is expected today (Thursday).

Khattak, Ahmed and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan participated in the talks on behalf of the government.

Red Zone turns into a battle field

 The Constitution Avenue in Islamabad turned into a battlefield Wednesday when the police used force to disperse government employees staging protest seeking increase in their salaries.

The police resorted to baton charge and threw hundreds of teargas shells to disperse the agitating employees as tens of protesters were arrested and sent to lockups of different police stations. At least 30 protesting employees were taken into custody under Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO).

The teargas shelling in the radius of 3 to 5 kilometre around the Constitution Avenue was so heavy that the people felt suffocation. All incoming roads including the Islamabad Expressway and Motorway remained closed for hours.

The Islamabad Police fired extensive tear gas at the protesting government employees when they were heading towards the Parliament House. The protesters reached the D-Chowk while the Islamabad authorities blocked the way towards the Parliament House with containers.

According to sources, demonstrators started bypassing the containers and the police once again resorted to teargas shelling to disperse them. Because of the teargas, some police and Rangers personnel also had to retract for a while and fell unconscious.

The protesters demanded that the containers be removed or they would remove them on their own. The federal government employees, demanding raise in their salaries, had gathered at the Constitution Avenue after their leader Rehman Bajwa and nine others were arrested overnight.

Following the arrests, the government workers in the federal capital had announced that they would march towards the Parliament House from the Pakistan Secretariat for their demands and the release of their leaders.

The police had resorted to teargas shelling after they made a move towards the parliament. The protesters at one point had also encircled Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz. The protesting employees also closed the doors to the Secretariat, bringing the government machinery to a halt.

The protesters received support from government employees over Grade 17, who also demanded an increase in their salaries. The All Pakistan Clerks Association and government employees of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh are also supporting the protest.

Speaking on the matter, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed said that the government dealt with the protesters correctly and it were the demonstrators that had gone back on the agreement. “We dealt with this correctly, we are increasing the salaries of 95 percent employees at an average of 40 percent,” the minister when asked about the situation said. Skeikh Rasheed said the protesters had backed out of the agreement they had made with the federal ministers. He claimed that the government had agreed to increase the salaries of the government employees from Grade 1-16.

He said when the government was about to issue the notification in this regard, the protesters demanded that the salaries of employees from grade 17-22 should also be increased which, he said, would add burden of billions of rupees to the exchequer. The interior minister also claimed that the protesters had the support of officers. He also refused to the demand of increasing the salaries of provincial officers, clarifying that it was not in the domain of the federal government. The matter would be resolved if the protesters go back to their initial demands, the interior minister said.

Official sources said that there should be an increase of 25 percent in the salaries of officials from grade 1-16 on an ad hoc basis. They also said that the finance ministry might finalise the proposal by tonight or tomorrow and send it to the prime minister and adviser on finance for approval.

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Chairman Maulana Fazlur Rehman while denouncing the arrest of protesting government employees said he accepted the democratic right of the protesters. He said this while addressing an emergency press conference at the Al-Jamiat House, Hyderabad. “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the protesters.”

Meanwhile, former president and President of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned violence and use of teargas on the government employees and said that it had greatly pained him to see what happened in D-Chowk today. Asif Ali Zardari said that people who are just demanding an increase in their salaries should not be treated like enemies. He said that he had predicted how Imran Khan would act after coming to power.

He said Imran Khan could do nothing but exploit the people. “Why does it sting the PTI government to allow an increase in the salaries of government employees,” he asked.

He said the PPP raised salaries of government employees despite facing hurdles and difficult situations. “The situation now has become so grim that small scale employees have fallen below the poverty line,” he said. He stated that the country could not progress with the economic exploitation of the government employees.

Also, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed solidarity with the protesting employees and asked the government to accept their genuine demands without any delay. He condemned the shelling and arrests of protesting government employees and asked the government to accept their genuine demands and release all the arrested employees.

Expressing solidarity with agitating government employees, the PPP chairman said that the PTI regime had resorted to highhandedness against the employees instead of listening to their genuine grievances.

He said the PPP government had doubled the salaries of the government employees but the PTI government had destroyed the economy through unprecedented inflation instead of giving incentives to the government employees. Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) strongly criticised the PTI government for torturing and throwing teargas on the protesting government employees.

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif slammed the government by announcing her support to the protesting government employees and declared that the violence against government employees, use of teargas and arrests were cruel tactics of the fake government.

Maryam Nawaz said that despite the fact that the inflation had increased four times, the present government during the last three years had not increased a single rupee in the salaries of the government employees. She said the government had crushed the people, especially government employees, in the mill of inflation.

“We will raise our voice against the rights of government employees and violence against them at every forum, including Parliament,” she announced. Maryam Nawaz demanded immediate release of the arrested government employees as well as acceptance of their demands regarding increase in salaries.

Earlier in her twitter message she said the protesting government employees were citizens of Pakistan and the government should stop tackling them violently. PML-N Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif also condemned the government for torturing the protesting government employees. He, in his twitter message, said that his heart was bleeding as he saw the police throwing teargas on the protesting government employees.

Nawaz said during the last two and a half years, the inflation and unemployment had increased manifolds resulting in putting extreme burden on the common citizens. He said if the people who brought Imran Khan into power would answer till what time the nation had to bear this cruelty.

Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islami ameer Senator Sirajul Haq strongly condemned the police crackdown and arrests of protesting government employees, asking the government to immediately address their demands and release those detained.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) strongly condemned brutality and use of force against protesting government employees who were demanding raise in salaries which had been denied by the federal government since 2018. PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi in statement urged the government to hold talks with government employees instead of using high handedness and using force as they were demanding pay raise which they had been denied since long.

They said, “We stand by the workers and government employees and we are duty bound to support their legal and constitutional rights and demands.”

A delegation of PFUJ, National Press Club and RIUJ led by former president PFUJ Afzal Butt, President NPC Shakeel Anjum and RIUJ President Amir Sajad Syed is already at the site of protest for showing solidarity with protesting government employees. PFUJ leadership appealed to the management of National Press Club to provide subsidised food from the canteen of the National Press Club and free food for detained government employees.