ISLAMABAD: The Constitution Avenue turned into a battlefield when the police used force to disperse government employees staging protest demonstration 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 Islamabad Expressway and Motorway remained closed for hours.
Islamabad Police fired extensive teargas at 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 else they would remove them on their own.
The federal government employees were demanding raise in their salaries and 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 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.
At one point the protesting employees also closed the doors to the secretariat bringing the government machinery to a halt.
At least two dozen protesting employees were taken into custody under Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO).
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 Rashid 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 the 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 in Al-Jamiat House, Hyderabad.
He said, “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the protesters. The police personnel opened firing on the employees of Wasoo dam.
He alleged the corruption has increased manifold during the current government as compared to the past.
The voices for accountability are rising within from the ruling party he said adding NAB is only a pawn. Casting vote is right of the nation.
He observed establishment should accept its mistakes of the past. It should not teach us alphabetic. If they have to learn politics then they should come under our tutelage.
He stated that all the state institutions are servant to the people. All the institutions should work within constitutional parameters. He underlined movement is movement. It is not necessary it accrues results.
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.
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 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.
She warned the fake rulers should oppress the masses as much as they could bear. She said those who staged a sit-in of 126 days in Islamabad could not handle the legitimate protest of government employees. “The fascist and dictatorial face of the claimant of western democracy has been seen by the entire nation today,” Maryam said.
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.
PML-N leader and MPA from Punjab Hina Pervaiz Butt in her statement also slammed the assault, teargas and arrests of the government employees by the government.
Meanwhile, PML-N Punjab spokesperson Azma Bukhari said, “Give yourself a bag of notes, made a video of yourself and then start propaganda. This is the new Pakistan,” she said adding Imran Khan was not any more Sadiq and Amin.
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.
If government had cared for its employees it should have raised their salaries according to the inflation to keep them from coming on the streets, he said in a statement from Mansoorah on Wednesday.
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 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 standby with 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 National Press Club and free food for detained government employees.
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