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The visually-impaired hold a demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club. — Online
The visually-impaired hold a demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club. — Online

LAHORE: Three months after the ugly incident of baton charge on visually impaired people in Lahore, the special persons on Monday again staged hours long sit-in on the premises of the Punjab Assembly to remind the provincial Punjab government of its promise to ensure their quota in government jobs and regularisation of their service.

More than 20 visually impaired persons refused to end their 11-hour sit-in on the stairs of the Punjab Assembly till the filing of this report, citing the Punjab government’s ‘cold’ response to their just demands.

Know more: Police baton-charges blind protesters in Lahore, several injured

Although Zaeem Husain Qadri, a spokesman for the Punjab government, held talks with them but the promise he made on behalf of the Shahbaz government was not enough to send the protesters home `empty-handed.’

When the visually impaired persons were holding the sit-in on the stairs of the assembly, the Punjab Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation and Amendment) Bill 2015 was being tabled in the house which was referred to the standing committee for two months. There was no opposition member except Khateja Farooqi of PML-Q present in the house that could have cashed in on the protest by boycotting the session. The opposition earlier had loathed the baton charge of visually impaired persons and demanded the government to accept their demands without any delay.


Stage sit-in on PA premises for jobs


“We will not end our protest till the acceptance of our demands - regularisation of services and implementation of two per cent job quota,” Muhamamd Adnan, a post-graduation student, told Dawn.

“Exactly three months back, the Punjab government had promised us to regularise the services of some 50 or so visually impaired persons in different departments, including the special education, when police manhandled us during the protest. And today again the Punjab government is giving us a false hope through another promise, which we are not ready to accept this time,” Mr Adnan said.

The security personnel at the Punjab Assembly closed its entry and exit doors following a group of Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists reached there to express solidarity with the visually impaired persons.

Catch phrase ‘Go Nawaz go’ was the hallmark of the PAT protest. The police literally took position to thwart the possible attempt of the PAT workers to force their entry into the assembly premises to join the visually impaired persons but they did not advance.

Perhaps not having the mandate from his boss, Zaeem Qadri stayed ‘close’ to the visually impaired persons at the assembly stairs for sometime after his failure to persuade them. As the protesters stuck to their demands and refused to end their sit-in the treasury members including Qadri left the venue. The security staff had closed both gates apparently not letting anyone else to enter the premises.

“You must be hungry. How long you will prolong your sit-in?” Rana Ghulam Farid was asked by this reporter. “I don’t know. But let me tell you I will not go home on mere promises. My fellows and I want the copy of regularisation order of 24 employees of special education department. When they give us the copy we will end our sit-in,” Mr Farid said.

Expressing the dual standards of the government, Mohammad Junaid said the government had advertised 24 posts for the visually impaired persons on a contract basis. “And the most regrettable thing is that it is hiring the people by ending the contract of those who are here to protest. How can you snatch morsel from one deserving to fill the belly of another deserving? This is unfair,” Junaid lamented.

As the cold was setting in the protesters holding sticks which help them navigate to their way were sitting on the assembly stairs the government’s apathy towards their plight was to be noticed.

Zaeem Husain Qadri has altogether other side of the story saying “the Punjab government has accepted all demands of visually impaired persons and all promises will be fulfilled by March 31.”

He said regularising ad hoc blind employees and increasing their one per cent quota would be recommended.

“The ban on jobs will not be applicable to blind persons and instructions will be issued to the respective DCOs about quota of blind persons. The special committee headed by additional chief secretary is formulating recommendations for the visually impaired. The government has increased quota for them to three per cent,” Qadri said.

Published in Dawn March 3rd , 2015

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