The sit-in of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad, which had been going on for almost a week in the federal capital’s financial hub, ended on Tuesday after the government accepted the demands made by the growers and assured them that a committee would be formed to work on it.
The farmers had a few demands from the federal government including a reduction in electricity bills and abolition of fuel adjustment charges. Several attempts were made to negotiate between the federal government and the farmers, after which the negotiations finally succeeded.
A PKI delegation went to meet Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, where the farmer leaders expressed their demands to the premier who gave them assurance to accept their demands and a committee was also formed on the issue.
Federal Minister Rana Sanaullah had been negotiating with the farmers from the first day. Sanaullah came to the sit-in and he also assured the farmers that their demands have been accepted.
Talking to the media on this occasion, the federal interior minister said that the fuel adjustment surcharge for farmers has been abolished and six months extension has been given to the farmers for payment of the existing electricity bills. “If the farmer is prosperous, the country will be prosperous,” he said. “The demands of the farmers have been accepted and a committee has also been formed on which I will personally work and representatives elected by the farmers will help us,” he added.
Sanaullah went on to claim that the prime minister would also announce a relief package for farmers next week which would bring great benefit to the farming community and the agriculture sector.
Earlier, PKI chairman Khalid Hussain Bhatth thanked the federal government and lauded the efforts of the interior minister. He subsequently formally announced the end of the sit-in to the farmers who raised slogans in favour of the government and danced to the beat of the drums.
After the sit-in ended, the Islamabad administration also started removing the barriers on the highways to clear them for traffic.
Last week, the farmers had gathered to protest against what they said were unfulfilled promises by the government, blocking all entry and exit points at the Blue Area underpass by parking large and minibuses and tankers.
The police and the local administration had also placed barricades and containers around the protest venue, forcing motorists and commuters to use alternate routes to reach their destinations.
The road blockade by the farmers along with large buses and trucks played havoc with traffic in the federal capital, multiplying the miseries of commuters. Alternate traffic plans by the Islamabad Traffic Police had also failed to mitigate the suffering of commuters since almost all major link roads between the two cities remained clogged with traffic during peak hours.
The farmers, under the banner of PKI, were demanding that the government guarantee a minimum support price for all produce and clear all farmer debts, among other things, besides taking back inflated electricity bills containing various and heavy taxes. The growers had also threatened to march on the D-Chowk and Parliament House if their genuine demands were not met.
The farmer’s protest posed a fresh challenge to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led federal government that already has a mammoth task of tackling a fragile economy amidst widespread flood-devastation.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2022.
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