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Punjab teachers threaten boycott of exams

LAHORE, April 27(Dawn): Thousands of schoolteachers on Thursday staged protest demonstration, blocked traffic on Lower Mall and managed to reach the Punjab Assembly to press the government to accept their longstanding demands.

The protesters gathered under the banner of the Muttahida Mahaz Asatza Pakistan, Punjab chapter, threatening to boycott the forthcoming primary and middle standard examinations besides holding demonstrations and observing academic boycott all over the province.

The male and female teachers belonging to different associations gathered in front of the Data Darbar carrying banners and placards emblazoned with their demands. They began marching towards Lower Mall to lead the rally up to Faisal Chowk on The Mall. However, a police contingent deployed along the protest route barricaded the Lower Mall in front of the Government Saleem Model School.

As the police stopped protesters, they chanted slogans against the government and demanded that it should accept their demands. Exchange of harsh words and scuffles took place between the teachers and policemen on the Lower Mall for almost two hours. The teachers also observed a sit-in and blocked traffic for almost two hours that caused immense problems for commuters and motorists.

Punjab MMAP chairman Hafiz Abdul Nasir, Punjab Professors and Lecturers Association President Nazim Hasnain, Jamil Ahmad Virk, Taj Haider, Ishaq Kamiyana, Allah Bakhsh Qaiser, Malik Allah Dad, Mian Munir, Dr Abida Mubashar, Munawar Tabbasum, Parveen Iqbal, Nasreen Latif and others spoke to the protesters.

They said the government had failed to meet the teachers' genuine demands for long. It should withdraw the denationalisation notification for the return of nine schools to the Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam, abolish recruitment of teachers on a contract basis or offer lucrative salaries to them, stop NGOs and political interference in educational institutions, increase their salaries by 30 per cent in the next budget, ensure smooth processing for promotions, move-overs and selections.

After about two hours, the teachers managed to remove the barricades and marched up to Nasser Bagh where they held demonstration.

A large number of teachers, who had gathered at the Lahore High Court, managed to march on The Mall and reached Faisal Chowk to register their protest against the government's policies.

As the teachers were protesting at Faisal Chowk, someone hit a policeman on his head with a baton that caused uproar. The teachers did not own the assailant as their colleague as the man had managed to escape.

The MMAP, Punjab, chairman said the teachers resolved the matter on the spot. He said the protest remained peaceful throughout the day and claimed that no arrest was made.

Hafiz Abdul Nasir said the association had decided that the teachers would boycott the forthcoming primary and middle standard examinations, observe three-day academic boycott in all government schools from May 7 and hold protest demonstration at the Government Islamia High School, Sheranwala Gate, on May 10.

Demonstrations would also be held in front of the Rawalpindi Press Club, the Multan Press Club and the Masjid-i-Shuhada, Lahore, on May 14, 15 and 16, respectively. In Lahore, the teachers would also march from the Masjid-i-Shuhada to the Governor's House. The schoolteachers would also take out a protest rally from Rehmani Masjid, Aabpara Chowk, to the Parliament House on May 23.

Mr Nasir said the MMAP would devise a further protest strategy at a meeting in Rawalpindi on May 24, if the government did not accept teachers' demands.

Mr Nasir said the MMAP had decided not to hold any dialogue with the government officials as there was no outcome of the meetings held with the Punjab education secretary and other top government officials.

He said the government should first notify the payment of allowance to the teachers before asking them to hold dialogues on other issues.
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