Clashes erupt in Pakistan between police and workers demanding pay hike

Islamabad, February 10

Pakistan’s capital Islamabad looked like a war zone on Wednesday after clashes erupted between police and the employees who have been demanding a pay hike.

Employees belonging to various ministries of the federal government wanted to enter the Red Zone and hold a sit-in before Parliament but were stopped by the police, resulting in clashes.

Police baton-charged and used tear gas canisters on the protestors repeatedly, prompting the employees to retaliate by throwing stones at the police personnel. Several employees’ leaders were arrested.

A group of protestors intercepted the vehicle of Information Minister Shibli Faraz as he was entering his office and demanded the immediate release of all their arrested leaders.

Police also blocked the Srinagar Highway linking the new airport with the city to limit the movement of the protestors, causing a massive traffic jam.

The protest brought the ministries and government departments and divisions to a standstill, according to officials. The protest started after the talks with the government failed on Tuesday. The government said it was not ready to give the maximum pay hike to the employees.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said the government had agreed to a 24 per cent increase in salaries for grades 1-16 employees but they demanded a 40 per cent rise in salaries for all grades from 1 to 22.

A three-member government team headed by Minister for Defence Pervez Khattak told the media they were holding talks with the employees to resolve the issue of salaries.

“We are ready to give relief to the employees in the form of a special allowance till the next budget (in June),” he said, adding that the recommendations of the pay and pension commission would be incorporated in the next budget.

Opposition leaders condemned the use of force by the government against the protesting employees.

“Fake rulers should inflict as much harm as they can themselves withstand,” said Maryam Nawaz, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president. PTI

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