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Another group of protesters shelled and thrashed – this time women

M. Waqar Bhatti

Karachi: Anti-riot police fired teargas shells and baton-charged lady health workers (LHWs) who held a march from the Karachi Press Club to the Governor’s House on Wednesday. The march was held in protest against non-payment of their salaries and the government’s reluctance in regularising their jobs.

Several lady health workers were injured during the police action; some five of them fell unconscious due to the teargas used to prevent them from gathering in front of the Governor’s House, and had to be given immediate medical treatment by their colleagues after they retreated to the KPC.

LHWs have been demanding the regularisation of their jobs and payment of their salaries for the last several months and have staged sit-ins and protests all over the country. However, their issues remain unresolved.

Dozens of LHWs of the province gathered at the KPC on Wednesday, where they decided to march towards the Governor’s House. But police gassed and baton-charged them on the way there, forcing them back to the KPC. Their protest caused a massive traffic jam in the downtown area, a phenomenon that has become a routine in recent days. There are several roads that lead to the Governor’s House, all of which are blocked by the police and vehicular traffic when such protests occur. All traffic is diverted to alternate routes, which causes immense traffic gridlocks in the city’s red zone.

After retreating to the KPC, the LHWs staged a sit-it and vowed that they would try to march to the Governor’s House again in the night. They also said that they would continue their protest unless their demands were met.

“Look what this democratic, people’s government is doing with women. They call themselves the champions of women rights but they don’t even pay women their salaries when they demand their rights. Instead, they subject them to teargas and batons,” said Khadija Bibi, an elderly LHW from Lyari.

She claimed their protest had exposed the PPP government, which was not willing to give legitimate rights to women, and would rather subject them to torture. “This continues to happen, even though their leaders have yet to give up the rhetoric of giving Roti, Kapra and Makan to the common people.”

Sindh Health Secretary Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi and Special Secretary Health Dr Suresh Kumar held talks with the protesting LHWs at the KPC, but failed to coax them into end their protest.

Zaidi told the protesting LHWs that after 18th Amendment, the health department had, just two months ago, been put under the jurisdiction of the Sindh government, and that at this stage, it was not possible for them to regularise their jobs.

Offering them to come to the negotiating table, the secretary health assured the LHWs that they would be given salaries immediately, but his offer was turned down by the protesters. They also refused to listen to the secretary health and said they should be given assurances by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah himself.

They vowed to continue their sit-in at the KPC and pledged to gather in front of the Governor’s House by 9:00 pm, where they would stage a sit-in until their demands were met. At the time of the filing of this report, police officials were still on high alert and had been directed to prevent the protesters from reaching the Governor’s House.

Source: The News