ISLAMABAD: The police in the federal capital on Wednesday fired tear gas shells at protesting government employees when they attempted to move towards the Parliament House located on the Constitution Avenue.
The federal government employees are demanding a raise in their salaries and had gathered today following the overnight arrest of their leader, Rehman Bajwa, and nine others.
The protestors had gathered today and announced their intention to march towards the the Parliament House from Pakistan Secretariat for their demands and the release of their leaders.
Police resorted to firing tear gas shells at the protesters after they made a move towards the Parliament. The protesters at one point had also encircled Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz.
The government employees also closed the doors to the secretariat, bringing the government machinery to a halt.
At least two dozen protesting employees were taken into custody under Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO).
The government employees were protesting against the income disparities between various federal government employees. They have been demanding a 40% increase in their salaries.
The protesters have received support from government employees over grade 17, who have also demanded an increase in their salaries.
The All Pakistan Clerks Association and government employees of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh are also supporting the protest.
Protestors went back on agreement: Sheikh Rasheed
Speaking on the matter, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed told Geo News that the government dealt with the protesters "correctly" and it was the demonstrators that had gone back on the agreement.
“We dealt with this correctly we are increasing the salaries of 95% of employees at an average of 40%,” the minister told Geo News when asked about the situation.
Rasheed blamed protestors for going back on the agreement they had made with the federal ministers. He claimed that the government had agreed to increase the salaries of the government employees from grade 1-16.
He said when the government was about to issue the notification in this regard, the protesters demanded that the salaries of employees from grade 17- 22 should also be increased which, he said, will add the burden of billions of rupees to the exchequer.
The interior minister also claimed that the protestors have the support of the officers. He also refused the demand of increasing the salaries of provincial officers, clarifying that it was not in the domain of the federal government.
“The matter will be resolved [if] they go back to their initial demands,” said the interior minister.
Finance ministry working on increase in salaries: sources
Sources told Geo News that a two-member committee, comprising interior and defence ministers, tasked with dealing with the protestors is in contact with the finance ministry over the raise.
Officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say that the committee has recommended that there should be an increase of 25% in the salaries of officers from grade 1-16 on an ad hoc basis.
They also said that the finance ministry may finalise the proposal by tonight or tomorrow and send it to the prime minister and adviser on finance for approval.
The sources say that Sheikh Rasheed and Pervez Khattak are pushing for the increase so an immediate relief could be provided to protesters and the situation gets under control as the federal government was not functional.