ISLAMABAD: The capital city’s police used force against protesters from the All Pakistan Clerks Association (APCA) and Punjab Teachers’ Union for allegedly violating an agreement with the capital administration and attempting to enter Red Zone on Tuesday.
Teachers are respected in every part of the world, however, in Islamabad they, along with clerks, were badly beaten by baton-charging cops who targeted them with tear-gas and rubber bullets as they were protesting against the budget.
The demonstration was jointly organised by APCA and Punjab Teachers’ Union to protest the meagre increase in their salaries and medical allowance in the recent budget.
Earlier, the capital administration had given them permission to assemble at National Press Club, the police said, adding that the protesters violated the agreement and started marching towards China Chowk.
They were protesting against the budget when the police used force against them, injuring hundreds
“They were allowed to move freely, until they reached Express Chowk, after which they made an attempt to enter Red Zone,” the police said, adding that the policemen tried to intercept them but the protesters turned on the police.
A police spokesman said in a handout that an additional contingent of policemen was already deputed there, and in light of the recent violent protests in Red Zone, the police managed to stop the protest and dispersed them peacefully.
Earlier, hundreds of teachers and clerks from different parts of the country gathered at the National Press Club at noon and later marched towards Express Chowk via China Chowk and Fazl-i-Haq Road.
The protesters chanted slogans against the budget and the government. They were intercepted by the police, including members of the riot police and Anti-Terrorism Squad, when they reached Express Chowk on Ataturk Avenue. A scuffle ensued and the police then resorted to baton charge.
Later, dozens of teargas shells and rubber bullets were fired when the mob got out of control and retaliated. A large number of protesters and policemen were injured during the clash but after an hour-long tussle, police succeeded in pushing them back to China Chowk.
Later, protesters gathered again at China Chowk and staged a protest, making another attempt to enter the Red Zone. However, the police retaliated and managed to disperse them from the venue.
General Secretary of Rawalpindi Teachers’ Union Asmat Abbasi told Dawn that the protest was held to condemn the budget and the nominal increase of 10 per cent in their salary. Besides, he said, the medical allowance of Rs100 per month was not even sufficient to buy five strips of Disprin.
The union’s general secretary for Punjab claimed: “We had announced the schedule of the protest and the capital administration was informed that we would stage a sit-in at D-Chowk.”
“The policemen scouted us when we started moving from the press club, but all of a sudden they started firing and shelling when the protesters reached near Express Chowk,” he added. Over 300 protesters were arrested, while hundreds were injured during action against the teachers, he said.
President APCA Sardar Hanif said that it seems that the capital administration had planned to deal strictly with the teachers and clerks, although the protest was peaceful.
Meetings are being held with Islamabad’s chief commissioner and deputy commissioner to get the arrested protesters released, he said, adding, “we also demanded an inquiry on the issue and called for an action against the officials responsible for it.”
A senior police officer said that a case would be registered against the protesters on different charges; including assault, obstruction in official duties, rioting and unlawful assembly. However, the protesters were teachers too, thus no arrests will be made, he said, adding that those who were arrested will be released.
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014