ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government on Wednesday opened negotiations with representatives of government employees who are protesting wages, an official said on Wednesday, after demonstrations turned violent and police fired tear gas on demonstrators.
Thousands of government employees are holding a rally in Islamabad to seek a pay raise, an issue the government has been trying to delay until June when the budget for the next financial year will be announced.
#WATCH: #Pakistan govt. employees protesting for pay raise turned violent after police resorted to tear gas shelling || #IslamabadProtests #EmployeesProtest
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— Arab News Pakistan (@arabnewspk) February 10, 2021
“We are genuinely concerned for government employees and are ready to increase their salaries,” Ali Nawaz Awan, a ruling party lawmaker from Islamabad, told Arab News.
He said a three-member government committee — comprising the minister for interior Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad, defense minister Pervez Khattak and state minister for parliamentary affairs Ali Mohammad Khan — was discussing “a way out” with protest leaders.
The negotiations began after Islamabad police arrested dozens of protesting employees and fired tear gas shells to disperse them. The capital administration has deployed riot police against the demonstrators and barricaded the entrance and exit of sensitive buildings, including the Parliament House and Secretariat Block.
A large number of protesters were still present near the Secretariat Block on Wednesday evening, waiting for the conclusion to ongoing talks.
“Inflation has increased manifold in recent months while we are forced to continue our work diligently on the meager salaries,” Hasan Malik, a government employee, told Arab News, saying Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration had not increased the salaries of government employees in the last budget, as was the norm with previous governments.
“We want the government to increase our salaries by at least 40 percent in the upcoming budget,” he said.
Talking to the media earlier in the day, the interior minister said government employees had the right to raise their demands within the confines of the law.
“We are ready to increase employees’ salaries by 25 percent, and if they agree, we can issue a notification for it too,” Ahmad said, adding that the government had reached a pay raise agreement with employees earlier in the week but “they backtracked from it.”