PESHAWAR: Police arrested 21 teachers after dispersing a protest rally of university employees through use of baton charge and teargas near the provincial assembly building here on Monday.

Several teachers also received injuries in the melee.

The provincial chapter of Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (Fapuasa) in a statement announced pen-down strike in all universities of the province to protest use of force against the unarmed protesting academicians.

The protesting teachers of the universities of Peshawar, Islamia College, engineering and agriculture marched more than eight kilometres to reach provincial assembly, causing traffic congestion in the city.

Teachers announce pen-down strike against use of force

Fapuasa had on Thursday last announced a sit-in outside the provincial assembly to seek setting up higher education commission at provincial level, revocation of increase in students’ fees and reduction in allowances of teachers, allowing 25pc disparity reduction allowance and removal of Dr Attaur Rehman from the vice-chancellor search committee.

Police said in a statement that they used force when the protesting teachers tried to block road and damage public property. It said that a large number of vehicles including ambulances were stranded on the road owing to the protest.

The statement said that police arrested 21 protesters and registered FIR against them at East Cantonment police station. It said that peaceful demonstration was right of every citizen; however, no one would be allowed to block roads and cause damage to public property.

Police arrested 21 protesters, most of them senior members of the protesting teachers, under section 341, 148 and 149 of Pakistan Penal Code and section 33 of the National Disaster Management Authority Act.

Addressing an emergency press conference at Peshawar Press Club after the protest, Fapuasa leaders condemned use of force against the protesting teachers.

Speaking on the occasion, Fapuasa vice president Prof Fazli Nasir said that use of force against unarmed teachers was mistake of government.

He said that Fapuasa decided to go on a pen-down strike on Tuesday at all universities of province.

Prof Nasir said that soon after they started their peaceful protest outside the provincial, police tried to intimidate them to end the protest. He said police used batons and teargas against them when the protesting teachers refused to end the protest.

He demanded immediate release of the arrested teachers.

Dr Amir Hamza Bangash, a lecturer at department of journalism and mass communication, told Dawn that the baton charge started when leaders of teachers were holding talks with police officials.

He said that initially police personnel pushed and shoved their leaders and soon afterwards resorted to baton charge and teargas. He said that he fainted due to excessive use of teargas and was taken to Lady Reading Hospital by friends and colleagues where he regained consciousness after about 30 minutes.

“Even the teargas they used against us appeared to be poisonous as it produced an itch so severe that I just wanted to peel off my skin,” said Dr Bangash.

He alleged that government wanted to privatise higher education in the province by increasing fees, reducing teachers’ allowances and salaries and taking other similar measures.

Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Higher Education Kamran Bangash in a statement posted to his Twitter account said that some elements were wrongly attributing the present situation to decisions/guidelines of provincial government for ameliorating the situation.

“In fact it is due to bad decisions by the university administrations coupled by shrugging the responsibility by the Higher Education Commission in their ordinance of 2002,” he said.

He said that provincial government despite meagre resources had come to the rescue of universities in the past and would continue to do so in future but universities were required to put their house in order. He said that if reforms aimed at financial discipline were not implemented, the situation would be hard to sustain.

In another statement Mr Bangash said that chief minister sought report from police officials about use of force against teachers.

He said that government was ready to listen to grievances of teachers.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021

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