Defence Minister Pervez Khattak on Thursday said a 25 per cent increase in the salaries of federal government employees from grades 1 to 19 has been approved on an "ad-hoc" basis a day after the capital saw tear gas shelling amid protests by hundreds of government employees.
He was addressing a press conference in Islamabad with Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan after the interior minister announced last night that negotiations with protesting government employees had been successful.
Rashid said the government committee had decided in the meeting to release all the arrested individuals so far.
Elaborating upon the implementation of the ad-hoc relief in today's press conference, Khattak said it would be added to the pay scales in the budget that will be announced in June.
Announcing other decisions of the government committee, the defence minister said it had decided upon the process of upgradation for all government employees which would be carried out after the budget announcement in June.
He further added that a decision on promoting employees based on time-scale approval had also been taken. A policy would be made for it and a procedure would be set, according to Khattak, because "the one who works harder should get more opportunities [than] the one who is lazy [and doesn't work hard]". Implementation of this decision would also take place after the new budget was announced, said Khattak.
The defence minister also addressed the demands of provincial organisations and said that the prime minister had instructed that provincial governments be given directions so the problems of employees of provincial governments could also be solved.
"We are apologetic about what happened yesterday [and it] should not have happened. Sometimes delays happen [and] it does not mean we are not working for you," said the defence minister. Ali Muhammad Khan also said he "appreciated" the protest movement and the prime minister also believed in the people's right to protest.
Khan also praised the role of the deputy commissioner, the staff of the interior ministry and the police in handling the protest but urged that measures be taken so yesterday's events are not repeated.
Interior Minister Rashid said negotiations were successful with the cooperation of employees from grades 1 to 19. "I am thankful to workers [...] and Pervez Khattak for the solution to this problem."
Federal employees had been complaining since a year about the difference in their basic pays, according to the defence minister. He said the final calculations of the government committee to resolve the ongoing dispute showed "on average there was a difference of 60pc [in pay] of federal employees."
Rashid said the government would remain in contact with the employees and increases would be made in the salaries of government employees from grades 20 to 22 in the next budget. He clarified, however, that the salary increase was for federal employees and employees of the federal secretariat.
The minister said that all protesters who had been arrested would be released and FIRs (first information reports) registered against them would be taken back.
In response to a question about policemen themselves being affected during the previous day's tear gas shelling, he said the cabinet would approve the release of funds so that money could be provided to police for "equipment that is in short supply".
Earlier today, at least 350 people gathered at the Pakistan Secretariat to protest while another 700 marched towards the National Press Club in the capital's Blue Area.
However, they decided to call off the protest after the ministers' presser.
Police. govt employees clash
A day earlier, Islamabad's Red Zone was giving the look of a battle zone as the federal government employees and security personnel clashed throughout the day in the heavily-guarded area.
The protesters were demanding increase in their salaries in accordance with the prevailing inflation.
Protesting under the umbrella of All Government Employees Grand Alliance, the public servants had announced a sit-in at Pak Secretariat till their salaries were increased.
On Wednesday morning, over 2,000 employees of Pak Secretariat gathered inside the premises to stage a protest and locked the main entrance to the secretariat, the administration’s officials said.
Government officials from other departments also reached the Secretariat from Radio Pakistan and PTV roundabouts and gathered outside the secretariat, officers said, adding that police tried to intercept the protesters but remained unsuccessful.
At around 10am, the police started arresting the protesters, and shortly afterwards resorted to teargas shelling, they said, adding that the protesters retaliated and pelted the police with stones. The police also fired rubber bullets at the protesters on Constitution Avenue.
Hundreds of vehicles remained stuck in kilometres-long queues and the Islamabad Traffic Police kept diverting traffic on alternative routes.
The police picked up over 200 protesters and detained them in Bhara Kahu, Secretariat, Kohsar, Aabpara and women police stations.