On October 14th, the D-Chowk of the federal capital saw a continued presence of government employees and other labour unions to protest the price hike and the anti-employees policies of the PTI government. Thousands of government employees from various departments all over the country, accompanied by people from different segments of society, staged a sit-in.
This included Lady Health Workers’ Association, numerous labour unions with the Awami Worker’s Party, All Pakistan Clerks Association (APCA) and others. The sit-in was staged on the call of the All Pakistan Clerks Associations which was endorsed by a number of unions, associations and organisations of government employees.
The protestors maintain that the government has failed to increase their salaries and allowances in regards to the rising inflation and food price hikes. Furthermore, the unions demanded a basic pay scale structure and measures to end the down-sizing of government departments and privatisation of the state-owned enterprises. In the recent past, the PTI government — under the IMF’s pressure — has moved to privatise the Pakistan Steel Mills and has called to also sell off the national flag carrier PIA.
Reports to The Correspondent estimate the number of protestors to be around 8,000 – 12,000.
The capital administration and police had sealed Red Zone by placing containers at its four entry points. Police, along with paramilitary troops, including Rangers, were deployed inside and around the Red Zone. However, one of the entry points at Margalla Road remained open for the government employees to reach their offices located inside Red Zone, including Constitution Avenue.
Law enforcement agencies were also deployed at other parts of the city, including Tarnol, Golra and Faizabad, to intercept caravans and groups of protestors. However, protestors belonging to various unions, associations and organisations successfully reached and assembled at China Chowk before noon. Later they marched towards Red Zone and reached Expressway Chowk where they staged a sit-in.
After the police tried to intercept the peaceful protestors at G-14 and G-11, brief confrontations took place. However, the charged protestors broke the police lines at two places and reached the edge of the Red Zone.
After ignoring the protests for a few days the administration officials finally met with the leaders of the protestors and later took a delegation of the protesters’ leaders to the adviser to the prime minister on finance for talks.
Rubina Khalid, Senator for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), joined the protests to express solidarity with the employees and addressed the sit-in. Critiquing the neo-liberal economic policies of the government she said that all the sectors of society were being harmed due to IMF dictating the economic policies. She added that the PPP demanded that all legitimate demands of the protesters be accepted as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Awami Workers Party (AWP) has expressed solidarity with the protesters and endorsed their charters of demands.
Even before the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) 16th October Gujranwala protest, the government is faced with a mass protest in the capital.