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Sunday October 24, 2021

16K employees pushed to edge

September 27, 2021

It gave good feelings to the people all around who must be pleasantly surprised as both the opposition and the treasury benches were expressing their solidarity with the 16,000 sacked employees of the government. They were rendered jobless pushing them to the edge of survival as a result of the judgment of the Supreme Court adjudicating the act of Parliament (2010) as illegal and unconstitutional. It may be recalled the employees were regularised by the then Parliament in 2010 whose services were earlier terminated by the PMLN government presumably considering the recruitment was undertaken by the PPP government allegedly on the basis of political affiliations rather than on merit.

The consequences of the verdict against the poor government personnel were unbearable by any stretch of imagination equating with the pronouncement of death sentence for the families of the employees as they were left high and dry with no hope to look upon. They were stigmatised as political appointees without knowing the humble background of such government employees who were obviously desperate to get employment like all others who were not so lucky to get employment. It was indeed unwise and cruel on the part of the then ruling PMLN leadership to deprive thousands of employees from their jobs. The employees suffered hugely in the political crossfire. The PPP government restored them after coming to power again and went ahead to regularise them through an act of Parliament so that they might not face the axing of their jobs again in future. But, unfortunately, the employees were back to square one once again when the apex court’s verdict adjudicated the act of Parliament (2010) as unconstitutional for being infringement of fundamental rights of the citizens.

The Supreme Court’s decision to sack the employees cannot be questioned, but review petition can be filed for the review of the judgment that the PTI leadership had thankfully decided to file in its bid to mitigate the sufferings of the thousands of families who must be living on the edge of survival with the acute sense of fear of falling in the abyss reducing them to nothingness. Some reports of heart attacks and mental morbidity among such employees might not be ruled out as most of them had been living solely on their monthly salaries like the other government servants across the board. It may not be difficult to imagine the sufferings they may surely be going through. The government’s direction to Attorney General to file review petition in the apex court must had rekindled the hopes of the affected’ families suffering from acute sense of hopelessness and helplessness as how they would continue to bear the burden of life as they had been pulled down in the close proximity of extinction. The large scale support and sympathies that poured in for the employees among the civil society circles and across the political spectrum including media and legal fraternity clearly spoke in volumes of as how much people were worried about pushing of the large number of poor people on the knife edge of existence. It may be reasonably hoped that the apex court in its wisdom may take suo motto or in the anticipated review petition find the way out for providing relief to the poor employees including those who were on the verge of their superannuation. The question of law, if any, might give way to the security of the lives and livelihood of thousands affected families. We cannot, however, suggest the outcome of the anticipated proceedings. To accord primacy to compassion over the other imperatives of law in the proceedings may be the exclusive jurisdiction of the apex court, to consider or not to consider and therefore beyond the scope of public domain.

The PPP leadership from the day one had been espousing the cause of the poor employees pleading their restoration at the earliest because overwhelming majority of them had nothing to fall back upon as aptly projected by PPP Secretary General Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, according to media reports. To formalise the party leadership’s stance, PPP leader Shazia Marri wanted to table resolution in the House bearing solidarity reaffirmation with the employees, but the chairman did not allow as the matter was subjudice.

Meanwhile, the government’s Minister Ali Muhammad Khan intervened amid the heated debate between PMLN leaders and Dr Shireen Mazari who responded to PMLN leadership at the top of her voice implying stop shedding crocodile tears as their government earlier sacked these employees. Their services were later on regularised during PPP government through an act of Parliament. The PTI Minister Ali Muhammad Khan revealed at the floor of the House that the government was aware of the plight of the sacked employees, adding the Attorney General had been directed to file a review petition in the apex court. He made it clear that the relief would only come through the Supreme Court, the highest judicial forum, because no other forum had the jurisdiction to undo the legal consequences of the court’s verdict. The legal course of action had to be followed that was underway as the PM had issued directive in this regard to the Attorney General.

The apex court’s judgment terminating the services of the more than sixteen thousand government employees with a stroke of pen might be deemed as devoid of compassion because such a large number of government servants were sent home with a stroke of pen those had rendered their prime of age in the service of the government in myriad departments. It was heartening to know that both the opposition and treasury benches in National Assembly spoke in favour of restoring the jobs of sacked employees whose family must be undergoing through the ordeal of appalling proportion as employees had grown old thus finishing their prospects of getting new job. The PPP chairman expressed solidarity with the terminated employees and urged the government to restore them failing which the party would file a petition in the Supreme Court for review, adding if failed to get relief through review petition then the party would reinstate them after coming to power.

The government minister’s disclosure that the PTI government also wanted the restoration of the employees was very reassuring but the relief had to be sought through the judicial proceedings falling in the category of review petition. Only the Supreme Court could review its own verdict. The sympathy shown to the plight of the sacked employees both by the opposition and the treasury benches in the National Assembly was pleasing in all forms and manifestations because all of them were raising their voice rooted in support in favour of the employees with a sense of urgency to give them their jobs back so that they could continue to lead a normal life with their families that must be going through the nightmare -- the curdling images in front of the Parliament were heart-broken.

The judgment of the apex court might have not accrued endorsement in the public domain as the consequences were hugely virulent for the affected families that evidently invoked massive support and sympathy for them as was evident in the National Assembly and in the news and views. It was not difficult to imagine the scale of miseries fallen on the families in this country where unemployment was rampant and getting job was no less than herculean task under the present state of the economy that was badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Undoubtedly, justice is to be done even if heaven may fall, but in this case it might be more than that because tens of thousands households might be undergoing the unimaginative hardships due to their resultant economic straitjacketing enough of endangering their subsistence to the hilt.

Overwhelming majority of the employees was pulling their day-to-day life with the regular meager income in the shape of monthly salaries. Undoubtedly, the middle order government employees were finding it difficult to meet their ends but in this case the ladder had been pulled out from under their feet altogether leaving all of them to fend for themselves without the necessary safety gears whatsoever.

The sledgehammer of inflation might crush them to annihilation indiscriminately because the prices of the food items, utility bills including health and education had hit the roof due to spiraling inflation forcing them to prioritise on the basis of bare minimum subsistence level striking at the heart of human development. Termination of their services might surely had threatened their existence as they must had been pushed much below the poverty line with no hope of falling back upon as overwhelming majority of them belonged to the lower middle class who somehow got their employment by stroke of luck or using the contacts, the practice that was reality in this country.

The then PPP government gave jobs to the poor people. The next PPP government regularised the employees through the act of Parliament minimising the chances of their termination as was earlier done by the PMLN government. But, the apex court‘s gavel pronounced the termination of their services judging the act of Parliament regularising their services amounted to infringement of fundamental right and therefore ultra vires. The terrifying flip flops had caused prohibitive consequences to the victim employees as they were at the receiving end, ironically.

Muhammad [email protected]