Pakistan News

PTI getting taste of its own medicine

PTI getting taste of its own medicine

PESHAWAR: The sit-in staged by PTI in Islamabad against the federal government last year seems to be haunting its own government in the provincial capital where blockade of road near the provincial assembly has become the order of the day.

On Tuesday, the protesting Class-IV employees again blocked the main road that connects the eastern part of the city with the western one through cantonment area. The blockade of road caused massive traffic jam for nearly six hours, having a gridlock ripple effect on the roads leading to the old part of the city.

The provincial government accepted the protesters’ demand of upgradation when the situation became untenable. This was the second protest by Class-IV employees in less than a week. Had the government accepted the demand of protesters earlier, the road blockade on Tuesday could be avoided.

The road blockade and the resultant traffic jam was so severe that it sent Chief Minister Pervez Khattak into an immediate huddle with his chief secretary and secretary establishment and his cabinet colleagues to find a solution to it.

A statement issued after the meeting and subsequent dialogue with leaders of the Class-IV employees said that the chief minister assured the protesters about seriously considering their demand.

The participants of a similar protest were baton charged last week was when military guards manning a checkpost in the area resorted to firing in air to stop the protesters from entering the sensitive areas.

Ironically, the road blockade occurred the day the chief minister inaugurated Police School of Public Disorder Management in Mardan, ostensibly to train police officers in professional handling of public protests and riots.

What, however, not many people know are the near state of paralysis in the government and its executive arm on how to deal with frequent road blockades on Khyber Road, an area that has been declared ‘red zone’ owing to presence of sensitive installations.

Sources said that the deputy commissioner of Peshawar had sent a terse letter, endorsed by the commissioner and home and tribal affairs secretary, to police pointing out how the deputy superintendent of police and SHO of East Cantonment police station chickened out and refused to baton charge a group of 20 to 25 protesters belonging to prison department in February.

As the protesters, led by a PTI student leader, tried to force their entry into the provincial assembly, the deputy commissioner took a baton from a policeman and cleared the road within no time.

“The lethargic attitude of police department is condemnable,” the letter said, demanding disciplinary action against delinquent officers.

The police in their rejoinder, according to officials familiar with the tug-of-war between the two branches of the executive over the road blockade issue, said that police had their own hierarchical structure and command and control system.

It said that the force was not required to take order from a magistrate of the district administration to use force when the protesters were peaceful.

The rejoinder said that district administration should communicate to the district police leadership to discuss whether or not to use force. That would be good. But what to do when the police officers are found missing. Police official privately admit the lack of clarity and policy on part of the provincial government vis-à-vis road blockades.

Further complicating the situation, they say, is the much wanted backup support from a media savvy provincial chief, who has built a reputation of firing and suspending more police officials than any other police chief in the history of the country.

This may be true as far as the lack of policy guidelines from the provincial government is concerned. The chief minister, knowing the risks and political embarrassment entailing the use of force against protesters blocking the road, went to the opposition leaders to request for a unanimous resolution to give his government moral support to exercise authority. The opposition, knowing what it would mean, politely declined.

In such a situation, a district level executive decision whether or not to use force to clear the road now awaits a unanimous resolution from the provincial assembly.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2015

On a mobile phone? Get the Dawn Mobile App: Apple Store | Google Play

Similar News
Recent News
Back to top