QUETTA: Balochistan remained cut off from other provinces on Monday as thousands of government employees blocked all national highways to pressurise the authorities to increase their salaries.
The Balochistan Government Employees and Workers Grand Alliance had given a 24-hour deadline to the provincial government on Saturday for acceptance of their demands and threatened to disrupt traffic in the entire province.
The striking employees gathered in Hub, Khuzdar, Mastung, Lakpas, Kolpur, Sibi, Dera Murad Jamali, Nushki, Yaro, Qila Abdullah, Loralai and other towns and cities of the province and blocked all national highways by putting barricades and big boulders.
Hundreds of vehicles, including trucks and passenger coaches, were stuck on various roads linking Balochistan with Sindh and Punjab.
The Afghan transit trade and supplies for the US forces stationed in Afghanistan remained suspended from Karachi as the protesters blocked the entry of all kinds of traffic to Balochistan at the industrial town of Hub.
People, including women and children travelling in passenger coaches, faced great difficulties. Heavy consignments of police, Levies and other law enforcement agencies were deployed. No untoward incident was reported from any area of the province.
The protesters staged a sit-in on the highways in different towns and cities, but in the evening they ended their sit-in on the main highways and security forces restored traffic by removing hurdles and barricades.
Meanwhile, all efforts made so far to persuade the protesting employees to end their weeklong sit-in staged near the Red Zone area remained failed as they refused to call off protest until acceptance of their demands.
In Quetta, thousands of employees, including female teachers and workers of different departments, took out a big rally. They marched on main roads of the provincial capital carrying banners and placards inscribed with their demands. They chanted slogans against the government.
Leaders of the Balochistan Employees and Workers Grand Alliance Abdul Malik Kakar, Habib-ur-Rehman Mardanzai, Mama Abdul Salam, Dad Mohammad Baloch, Younis Kakar and Abdul Razzaq Ulfat led the rally from Abdul Sattar Edhi Chowk.
Addressing the protesters, they said the sit-in would continue till the acceptance of all demands, including a 25 percent increase in salaries.
They praised the members of the grand alliance of all the districts who had made history by jamming the whole of Balochistan on the appeal of their leadership.
However, they apologised to the people for facing difficulties due to blocking of roads and highways.
“We were compelled to close the whole of Balochistan today. We have been in touch with the whole of Balochistan since morning. The talks continued till midnight. Many issues were discussed with us. After 12 o’clock, the government tried to spoil the talks by taking a U-turn,” said the leaders of government employees unions.
“The chief minister has said that these people have always been in jails. We have been in jails for our rights. In some districts pressure is being exerted to open the roads. We tell everyone that no road will be opened until the order of your leaders comes. Even today, all the institutions of Balochistan will remain closed,” they said.
“Not a single employee should be seen in hospitals, colleges and schools. We were peaceful yesterday and will remain peaceful today,” they added.
Ali Jan Mangi in Nasirabad, Abdul Wahid Shahwani in Khuzdar and Behram Baloch in Gwadar also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2021