ISLAMABAD: Police resorted to baton charges and shot tear gas at hundreds of teachers as they marched here on Saturday at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s residence in Banigala, sources said.
On condition of anonymity, police officers told Dawn that a police team had succeeded in driving back the demonstrators and clearing the path leading to the residence of the premier by using intimidation.
The region was eventually ‘sealed’ and provided, they added, under the security of a well-equipped police team that included Counter Terrorism Department and Anti-Riot Unit staff.
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Dozens of the teachers demonstrating were rounded up and taken to numerous police stations where they were arrested, they said.
Up to 700 teachers from Punjab had earlier entered the capital and planned to march on the house of the premier to stage a demonstration near it against their department’s current regularisation scheme, police said.
Opposition parties condemn police action against protesters
Protesting teachers are of the opinion that only those teachers who complete the review of the Public Service Commission and explain the interviews are unequal in the current strategy of regularising the positions when they have been employed in their department on contract for up to seven years.
The demonstrators were stopped at Banigala Chowk and ordered to step back, the officers said, adding that when the protesters failed to disperse peacefully, the police had to use force.
Dozens of students, they added, were hospitalised as a result. Reinforcements had to be called to the field of Banigala and sent to different areas.
The protesters then gathered at Mulpur Chowk, police said to stage a sit-in there. The Murree Road was closed and cars were trapped in miles-long queues as a result.
As traffic was redirected to them the other streets were also surprised, they said.
The deputy commissioner of Islamabad, Mohammad Hamza Shafqat, entered the chowk to bargain with the demonstrators, but the teachers declined to stop their demonstration.
Mr. Shafqat told Dawn that the teachers had been invited to relocate to the National Press Club, but he was flatly denied. He said he was transmitting messages between the teachers and the government of Punjab.
The government of Punjab, he added, had already approved much of the demands of the students. The educators decided to regularise their work and said that they should be put in grade 17, he said.
For more talks, a delegation of teachers was taken to the Chief Commissioner’s Office in Rawalpindi, he said. The paths were cleared as well.
Senior police officers were of the impression that because police pickets on different roads had recently been withdrawn, a large number of teachers managed to enter the Banigala district.
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Eighteen police checkpoints were withdrawn from numerous roads about two weeks ago under the Interior Minister’s orders, they said.
Despite repeated attempts to reach them, Police Inspector General Mohammad Aamir Zulfikar Khan and Deputy Police Inspector General (Operations) Waqaruddin Syed were not available for comment.
The police action against the protesting teachers and their incarceration was widely condemned by opposition parties.
In a tweet, PPP Secretary General Syed Nayyar Bukhari called for the detained teachers to be released immediately.
Maryam Aurangzeb, PML-media N’s secretary, plainly said that the prime minister “should be ashamed” of the incident.