Violence, chaos as nurses, PTI lawmakers protest near CM House

July 19, 2019

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A PROTESTER scuffles with a policewoman and (right) demonstrators are drenched by a water cannon on Thursday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
A PROTESTER scuffles with a policewoman and (right) demonstrators are drenched by a water cannon on Thursday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Chaotic scenes were witnessed near CM House on Thursday where police used water cannons and resorted to baton charge to stop a rally of protesting nurses with active participation of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s lawmakers and local leaders.

Local TV channels filmed the series of events in which nurses and policewomen were also seen engaged in violent quarrels before the rally was finally stopped near the PIDC roundabout.

Later, blaming a “political party” for politicising the nurses’ protest, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah asked the police to release those nurses who had been arrested from the scene.

Murad orders release of detained nurses

The nurses have been holding a sit-in outside the Karachi Press Club for two weeks boycotting most of the facilities in the government-run hospitals that has dearly affected thousands of patients who cannot afford private health treatment across the province.

The chief minister was referring to certain leaders of the opposition PTI who had been visiting the nurses’ camp on half of the street where the KPC is located and a female opposition lawmaker led a rally towards the CM House, saying “politicising the issue related to nurses is a pity”.

The rally was baton charged and obstructed with water cannon by the police and a number of protesters were detained.

Mr Shah asked the police authorities to release the detained protesters who had been arrested in chaotic conditions outside CM House. The protesters were demanding raise in salaries and changes in existing service structure.

The Sindh Nurses Alliance office-bearers said they were joined by MPA Tahira Bhutto and other PTI leaders when they started marching towards CM House.

The police had placed barriers near PIDC, where they were stopped and not allowed to proceed further.

A PTI spokesperson claimed that the MPAs that were part of the protest were also hit by the water cannon.

The nurses said the government was not serious in holding negotiations with them, warning that the protest would continue until their demands were met.

Chief Minister Shah said there was no reason to protest after the health secretary had negotiated with the nurses’ representatives. Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister on Information and Law Barrister Murtaza Wahab arrived at the PIDC and spoke with the protesters.

A CM House spokesperson said Mr Shah had also asked health secretary Saeed Awan to settle the issue immediately.

Officials claimed negotiations between the representatives of the government and nurses had been fruitful and a notification encompassing certain demands of the nurses would be issued in a day or two.

However, the nurses’ representatives said they would only end their sit-in outside the KPC when their demands were accepted.

Meanwhile, officials at various government-run hospitals said the protest by nursing staff was affecting negatively the service delivery in almost all sections of hospitals and dispensaries across Sindh.

They said at various hospitals doctors had themselves assumed the job of paramedics.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2019