LAHORE: A number of workers, civil society members and parliamentarians took out a protest rally on Sunday against massive price hike, rising unemployment and other issues people have been facing since the PTI-led government took over in August 2018.
The protesters including a number of women gathered at the GPO intersection under the banner of Haqooq-i-Khalq movement. They, while carrying placards and banners inscribed with various demands, chanted slogans against the government for its failure to handle the crisis.
“I have lost my job at a factory (Gajjumata, Lahore) after the owner retrenched a number of workers due to deteriorating financial condition. My husband too has no job these days,” said Ms Iram, one of the protesters, at GPO intersection.
“It seems that we will not be able to get new job until this government stays,” she deplored.
The protesters including those retrenched by a leading industrial group, seemed determined to launch a protest movement for their rights which, according to them, are not being given to them in violation of the Constitution of Pakistan.
“A leading industrial group removed 3,800 workers from various jobs in one go on the pretext of coronavirus. We launched protests in Faisalabad. But no one heard us. And now we are facing criminal cases registered by police against us on the applications of factories’ owners,” Muhammad Asif told Dawn.
Tahir, Shahzad and others also narrated the similar ordeals, while speaking to this reporter. The rally after having a considerable number of participants moved ahead to reach Charing Cross where the speakers representing various segments of society were to deliver speeches. They received encouragement from the shopkeepers and motorists on the way.
“The price hike has really crushed the people from all walks of life. This is the first government whose policies have affected everyone,” commented a shopkeeper. “We must support such rallies being staged for our rights.”
The protesters sought immediate remedial measures that must be taken by the government to provide relief to the people. They said they would intensify the movement for the provision of rights to them.
“Today every institution of Pakistan has been paralysed. Journalists, judiciary, lawmakers etc are under pressure and being tried to be controlled. So we all need to get rid of the prevailing situation by massively voicing against this,” said MNA Mohsin Dawar.
He berated the PTI government and said the country was passing through the worst situation in terms of human rights. “They (the government) is snatching scholarships of Baloch and Pashtun students. The police in Lahore extort money from Pushtun traders,” he alleged.
He criticised the government for abolishing the Pakistan Medical Council and bringing a new organisation, Pakistan Medical Commission. “The new commission is facilitating the private medical colleges to earn money. Moreover, they have introduced a new test that reflects that the commission doesn’t trust the medical education given in public and private sectors of Pakistan. It is really strange,” he said and urged the participants to unite if they want to get their rights from this government.
He expressed sorrow over death of a farmer during protest in Lahore recently.
Farooq Tariq said as the people of the US had succeeded in getting rid of Donald Trump, the people of Pakistan too would soon be able to send this country’s junior Trump (Imran Khan) packing. He demanded fixing of Rs2,000 per maund wheat support price for farmers and Rs35,000 minimum wages for the workers.
Abid Saqi expressed grave concern over killing of people in protests. “They are killing the people. They are making people disappeared. It is an extreme tyranny that must end now,” he added.
As the speeches were under way at the rally against price hike, another rally while expressing solidarity with the armed forces also appeared on The Mall near Charing Cross. Organised by a party “Hum Awam Pakistan”, the participants raised slogans in support of the army.
Police stopped them away from the Haqooq-i-Khalq movement rally in a bid to avert any untoward situation.
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2020