Separate protesting groups unite on Mall Road

Demonstrators were prepared for a long sit-in as they brought along food and temporary lodging facilities

Muhammad Shahzad March 19, 2019
Lady health workers stage sit-in on Mall Road. PHOTO: NNI

LAHORE: The portion of Mall Road in front of the Punjab Assembly resembled Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, as a large number of protestors, including lady health workers, government engineers and the visually-impaired, held sit-ins on Monday.

In the afternoon, hundreds of engineers wearing yellow vests congregated throughout Punjab and started moving in the form of a rally from Anarkali. After passing through Mall Road, they gathered in front of Punjab Assembly.

The protestors demanded technical allowances and due respect from the government. One of the major slogans raised by the protesters was “Jis dor main jeena mushkil ho, uss dor main jeena lazim hai” (It is important to survive in difficult times).

The demonstrators pointed out that they had staged protests in the past and the government had promised to resolve their issues. However, many believed they were merely given “lollipops” to hold off the demonstrations till a notification for their technical allowance was issued.

Similarly, lady health workers (LHWs) were also out in force and it was not the first time they had gathered either. For the last few years, LHWs had been collecting at various intervals for their demands to be heard.

After some time, the engineers reached Mall Road as did the LHWs. A delegation went to the protest of the engineers to express solidarity. Later, both professional groups joined hands in support of each other.

The charter of demands of LHWs included the upgradation of scales for themselves, supervisors and drivers. It also asked for lifting the ban on the recruitment of LHW and restoration of their induction.

Another demand was the establishment of a proper service structure, which the LHWs said was neither promised by the government nor laid out on the basis of education or experience.

Although press release by the health department had accepted their demands, the protestors said authorities had made similar ‘lame’ promises in the past. This time, they vowed not to disperse unless a notification to address their demands was not issued.

A group of visually-impaired people also joined the overall demonstration. These protestors demanded a 1% quota special persons in government jobs.

The demonstrators, especially LHWs, were well prepared for a long sit-in. They brought along food, temporary lodging facilities, tents, and clothes etc. Many of them had their meals at the venue.

The protest caused traffic congestion in most part of the city as the Mall is a major artery of the city. The blockades affected the flow of traffic on the Mall and adjacent roads.

Mall Road is also home to important government offices and commercial areas, including WAPDA House, Governor House, Alhamra Hall, 90-Shahra, Lahore Zoo, CCPO Office, Lahore High Court, State Bank of Pakistan, GPO, DCO Office, Panorama Shopping Center and Hall Road Electronic Market etc.

The commuters who use these roads were largely inconvenienced and the spillover effect led to congestion on adjacent routes such as Cooper, Ferozpur and Queen’s roads.

City Traffic Police Lahore (CTPL) deployed an extra contingent of wardens to handle the situation. They created diversions on the roads which led to the protest site. Lahore Police also deployed officials for security purposes to keep a check on the law and order situation.

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