Protesting Punjab teachers baton-charged

LAHORE, June 2(The News): The police on Friday baton-charged protesting teachers who tried to march towards the Governor's House from Faisal Chowk to stage a sit-in for their demands.

A large number of teachers from various parts of the province had gathered outside Masjid-i-Shuhada, The Mall, to march towards the Governor's House for staging a sit-in there. However, the police blocked the way of the protesting teachers at Faisal Chowk near Punjab Assembly and stopped them from moving forward.

The Muttahida Mahaz Usataza (MMU) had given a sit-in call in connection with teachers' demand of special teaching allowance, change in academic session, and increase in salaries and against the denationalisation of government institutions.

A large contingent of police was deployed at Faisal Chowk while barbed wires were spread around to stop the protesting teachers. Exchange of hot words and minor scuffles took place between the teachers and the policemen when the teachers tried to cross the blockades. The police resorted to baton-charge to disperse them.

The MMU senior office-bearers, including Punjab chapter Chairman Hafiz Abdul Nasir, Zarar Ahmed, Rasheed Bhatti and others, addressed the protesting teachers at Faisal Chowk and criticised the government for not giving importance to teachers' demands.

They vowed to continue their protest campaign unless the government fulfils their demands regarding the issuance of notification of special teaching allowance, increase in salaries, revising the decision regarding the start of academic session and stop denationalisation of government schools. They also announced setting up hunger strike camps at district levels across the province from June 9.

It is worth-mentioning here that teachers had also boycotted the primary (class-5) exams in Punjab, which started on 25 May. They had succeeded in disrupting the exams in different districts of the province. The government had to postpone the primary and middle standard exams (scheduled to commence from 2 June) because of the teachers' protest and reports regarding the leakage of question papers during the primary exam.

It is worth-mentioning here that Muttahida Mahaz-i-Usatza Pakistan's boycott of the class 5 examination had led to the postponement of the exam across the province. As many as three question papers were also leaked prior to the exam while it could not be conducted smoothly in various districts.

The teachers had also boycotted the exam training before the commencement of activity besides holding demonstrations to convey their viewpoint. The forthcoming class 8th exam has also been postponed indefinitely that has literally wasted millions of rupees incurred on the whole exercise.

Punjab Secretary Education Syed Khalid Akhlaq Gillani said that the government was not ready to give in to the pressure tactics of the teachers. However, he said, it was ready to discuss the issues at hand.

The MMU is protesting on the delay in provision of teaching allowance despite the fact that the announcement in this regard was made by the federal government in last year's budget. The provincial government had announced to follow suit, but then backed out on the pretext of the lack of requisite funds.

Consequently, only the federal and Balochistan governments have agreed to extend teaching allowance to the school teachers and the controversial issue is still pending in other parts of the country. The Punjab government has reportedly forwarded a summary to the federal government for allocation of funds in this regard.

The provincial government has estimated a financial impact of approximately Rs three billion of teaching allowance to over 300,000 school teachers in the province. The federal government, though, has shown no inclination so far of providing the requisite amount.

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