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Pakistan: Visually impaired continue protests to seek jobs

LHC takes notice of police action against demonstrators at Punjab CM’s house

Gulf News

Islamabad: Following protests and clashes, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday issued notices to the Punjab government and police seeking response on the alleged use of force against visually impaired people protesting government’s failure to provide them with jobs.

On March 6, a group of visually impaired people headed towards the Punjab chief minister’s house in Lahore. However, the Lahore police allegedly beat them with batons, leaving several demonstrators being “badly injured”, according to the petition.

The petition filed on Tuesday by the Judicial Activism Panel said the protest was a continuation of several demonstrations that have been taking place in various areas of Lahore against the Punjab government’s failure to “give due rights, due jobs and salaries to visually impaired persons”.

The petition claimed that differently abled people were not employed as permanent employees by government departments and the state even “failed to release their salaries on time”.

Prosecutor Advocate Azhar Siddique argued that the Constitution gives every citizen the right to protest and that the use of violence against peaceful protesters is a violation of Article 9 (security of person) and Article 14 (inviolability of dignity of man).

After hearing the case, Justice Shujaat Ali Khan ordered the Punjab police chief or a responsible police official to appear in court for the next hearing on March 27.

As video footage of police mistreating the protesters went viral. Protests were also held in Rawalpindi to express solidarity with the physically abused people. They blocked the main city artery, Murree Road, causing a traffic jam in the city.

They demanded strict action against the police officers involved in mistreating the protesters in Lahore. They also demanded job quota in government departments.

Speaking to Gulf News, Babar Shahzad, said that “it is unfortunate and shameful that the government has not taken notice of our demands and always made false promises even after a series of protests”.

His disability, he says, doesn’t affect his ability to do the job. “But I don’t think government realises what disabled people can do.” He stressed: “We are not asking for any privileges but only seeking our basic right of employment.”

On the fourth consecutive day of protest on March 6, Lahore city police baton-charged and arrested a few those who gathered outside chief minister’s with their deman for jobs or stipends.

Police, however, claimed the protesters tried to enter the building after they had to use force against them.

Opposition parties have criticised the provincial government, especially Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, for not taking notice of the needs of differently abled persons.

The Lahore protest is part of series of protests in recent months in Lahore and Peshawar. The protesters are demanding that the government give them jobs in accordance with the special quota and regularise those working on contract basis.