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LAHORE: Around four dozen visually impaired people have blocked the main artery of the city – The Mall – for the last 48 hours, spelling severe problems for the city traffic and embarrassment for the government.

In the last five years, these visually challenged people have protested umpteenth time and blocked roads and were even baton-charged once in 2014. Their demands, however, remain unmet despite the Punjab government promising each time to end the protest.

They have been demanding permanent jobs for all blind people, strict implementation of three per cent job quota for them, regularisation of those who were hired for different government jobs and immediate induction of those who have cleared national testing service exams for different jobs.

The central police officer and deputy inspector general arrived in the evening to negotiate with them. The visually impaired people, however, were divided on the issue of talks with the government. One section of them did not want to negotiate with the government because they have been “cheated” many times earlier as each time they come on roads, the government agrees to all demands to disperse them – only to forget later. The other section, however, wanted to talk, saying that they hardly have any option but to talk to the government and try to reach some sort of implementable conclusion.

Since they have not only been blocking the main artery of the city but also the road leading to the Chief Minister’s office at the Club Road, the government has been under pressure to disperse them. The deadlock continued till the filing of the report late on Tuesday evening.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2018