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Rights and obligations: Traders assault protesting health workers on The Mall

By: Rameez Khan

LAHORE: Several traders having businesses on The Mall on Friday attacked lady health workers picketing the road at Chairing Cross for over five hours in protest against government’s failure to release their salaries as promised to them during an earlier protest on Tuesday.

Several Mall Road Traders Association members attacked the protesting LHWs with batons, some pelted the protesters with corncobs and other trash dumped on the roadside. The confrontation was preceded by an argument between protesters and Hasan Ahmed, a jewellery shop owner. Ahmed said he had asked the protesters to end their blockade. He said he was joined by more traders after health workers refused to entertain his requests.

Police contingents led by Superintendent of Police Umer Saeed and Assistant Superintendent of Police Riffat Bukhari soon reached the scene but could not immediately restore order.

“These protesters are destroying our business as the road is blocked every other day,” said Haji Qadeer Bhatti, another trader. He said protests on The Mall were now illegal and that traders would not accept pickets and sit-ins any longer.

Around five hundred LHWs had earlier marched from Nasser Bagh to Charing Cross on The Mall, where they blocked the road. They chanted slogans against the government for its failure to honour a commitment, it had made after an earlier protest on October 18, that a month’s salary of LHWs would be released in a day.

National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Healthcare Association’s Punjab president Rukhsana Anwar told The Express Tribune that a Health Department team led by Director General Aslam Chaudary had met them after the protest and assured them that the promised salary had been released on Friday.

She said the team said they lacked funds to regularise the services of LHWs working against contracts. She said the team also asked the association for suggestions for finalisation of a Planning Commission performa-1.

Anwar said a driver and an LHW with a qualification of intermediate and an LHS with a qualification of bachelors and masters were being given the same salary. This, she said, was unjust. She demanded that their pay scales be revised. She said if government’s apathy towards their demands continued next protest would be staged in Islamabad.

Anwar said a call for boycott of all public healthcare programmes earlier given by the association had been withdrawn in view of the inconvenience it would cause to the people.

An LHW from Multan condemned the government for not using the World Health Organisation funds to clear their salaries. She said services of contractual employees had not been regularised despite court orders to the effect.

Traffic remained suspended for several hours because of road blocks at Charing Cross by LHWs and on Mozang Road by students protesting against errors in results announced by the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education.
Source: The Express Tribune
Date:10/22/2011

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