ISLAMABAD: Police resorted to a baton-charge and fired tear gas on hundreds of teachers when they were marching on the residence of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Banigala here on Saturday, sources said.
Police officers told Dawn on condition of anonymity that a police contingent succeeded in pushing back the protesters and getting the road leading to the premier’s residence cleared through use of force.
The area was later “sealed” and given under the protection of a well-equipped police contingent that included personnel of the Counter Terrorism Department and Anti-Riot Unit, they said.
Dozens of the protesting teachers were picked up and shifted to different police stations where they were detained, they added.
Earlier, up to 700 teachers from Punjab reached the capital and decided to march on the premier’s house to hold a protest near it against the new regularisation policy of their department, police said.
Opposition parties condemn police action against protesters
The protesting teachers are of the view that the new policy of regularising the jobs of only those teachers who pass the examination of Public Service Commission and clear the interviews is unjust because they have been working on contract in their department for up to seven years.
The protesters were stopped at the Banigala Chowk and asked to move back, the officers said, adding that police had to use force when the protesters refused to disperse peacefully.
Dozens of teachers were injured as a result, they said. Reinforcements had to be called to the Banigala area and deployed to various locations.
The protesters then assembled at the Mulpur Chowk to stage a sit-in there, police said. As a consequence, the Murree Road was blocked and vehicles were stuck in miles-long queues.
The other roads got chocked as well when traffic was diverted to them, they added.
Islamabad’s deputy commissioner, Mohammad Hamza Shafqat, reached the chowk to negotiate with the protesters but the teachers refused to end their protest.
Mr Shafqat told Dawn that the teachers were requested to move to the National Press Club, but they flatly refused. He said he was conveying messages between the teachers and the Punjab government.
The Punjab government, he said, had already accepted a majority of the teachers’ demands. The teachers wanted their jobs to be regularised and said they should be placed in grade 17, he said.
A delegation of teachers was being taken to the Chief Commissioner’s Office in Rawalpindi for further negotiations, he added. The roads were also being cleared.
Senior police officers were of the opinion that a large number of teachers managed to reach the Banigala area because police pickets on various roads had been removed recently.
About two weeks ago 18 police checkpoints were remove from different roads under the directives of the interior minister, they added.
Inspector General of Police Mohammad Aamir Zulfikar Khan and Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Waqaruddin Syed were not available for comments despite repeated attempts to contact them.
Opposition parties strongly condemned the police action against the protesting teachers and their arrest.
In a statement, PPP’s secretary general, Syed Nayyar Bukhari, called for the immediate release of the detained teachers.
PML-N’s information secretary Maryam Aurangzeb simply said the prime minister “should be ashamed” over the incident.
Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2020