KARACHI: Police used tear gas, water cannon and batons to disperse employees with the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), after they entered the red zone area and attempted to march to the Chief Minister House on Monday. The protesters were demanding permanent jobs.
Union leaders claimed that 69 of their colleagues were arrested, and 11 others were injured. Police, on the other hand, said that 39 protesters were detained and no one was injured. “Everyone knows that police have to take action when a group of more than four people tries to enter the red zone,” said Civil Lines ASP Usman Bajwa. “We used tear gas and water cannon, but did not baton charge these people.”
NCHD’s Bahadur Bhurgari maintained, however, that they were marching “peacefully” towards CM House and wanted to meet Qaim Ali Shah. But the police used tear gas and beat them.
The protesters ran towards the Karachi Press Club and the nearby Zainab Market, as police chased them, with water cannon bursts. Some of the NCHD employees retaliated by throwing rocks and sticks at the police. Nurses, doctors and engineers, who were sitting outside the press club, also ran for cover, not sure who the police were after.
NCHD was established during former president Pervez Musharraf’s government, and all of its employees were hired on contract from 2003. Bhurgari told The Express Tribune that nearly 800 employees and 4,000 volunteer teachers of NCHD across Sindh are working on contract. “[Former] Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Shah promised us in June 2011 that the government will give us permanent jobs, but nothing has been done yet.”
Bhurgari said that the semi-governmental programme was responsible for looking after 3,000 schools in remote areas of Sindh’s 23 districts, where nearly 200,000 children were being educated.
The NCHD employees had attempted to march towards Bilawal House on March 27, but were thwarted by police. They also staged sit-ins for 43 days in Islamabad last year.
Ashfaque Memon, another NCHD employee, said that the Supreme Court had also given a verdict in their favour, and directed the government to give them permanent jobs. “Hafeez Pirzado is our lawyer and he has sent the government a notice of 15 days. The deadline will end on April 5. Not a single official has contacted us so far,” added Memon.
A police official said on condition of anonymity that use of water cannons or batons disturbs the public and traffic flow as well. “Policy makers need to concentrate on the issue, as such action will increase the gap between the public and the police.”
He suggested the establishment of a counter at CM House, where four to five representatives of a group can visit and register their demands or lodge their complaints.
Muhammad Daim Janwari, the chairman of the NCHD action committee, said that their protest will continue till their demands are met. “We will attempt to march towards CM House again. It is our right and we are committed to fighting for it.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2012.