January 7th, 2021
Over a dozen public school teachers were injured while more than 68 were arrested on Wednesday after a police crackdown followed their protest rally in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The teachers were marching towards government buildings to protest for their demands.
Around 2000 teachers had gathered at a state-run school in the Upper Chattar Housing Scheme, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to proceed with their protest march as planned. They were demanding an up gradation of their pay scales according to the commitments made to them by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) AJK government in 2013. According to the commitment, the post of a primary teacher was to be upgraded to BS-14 from BS-7 while junior and senior teachers were to be upgraded to BS-16 and BS-17 from BS-14 and BS-16 respectively.
However, the commitment could not be realized because of a lack of funds. Teachers claimed that the Finance Department regularly cites lack of funds as a reason to block any increments. Even the current AJK government being led by Pakistan Muslim League-N’s (PML-N) Raja Farooq Haider, first assured the teachers that their grades would be elevated but later went back on his promise prompting the current wave of protests.
In the afternoon the protesting teachers threatened to march to the Prime Minister House if their demands were not fulfilled. As soon as the teachers tried to carry out their threat of marching towards AJK government buildings including the state secretariat and the PM house they were met by a heavy contingent of the police.
According to reports the police used severe force to disperse teachers, the instructors were baton-charged and tear-gassed. As a result of the violence over a dozen, teachers were injured while over 68 were arrested by the police for “rioting in a sensitive area.”
The police claim that they had reached an agreement with the protestors that a government committee will be formed to address their demands and the teachers will end their protest in return. According to the police, the protestors went back on their promise and started marching towards sensitive government buildings forcing the police to respond. As per the police, three of their officials were also injured as a result of the violence.
The protesting teachers have vowed to not only continue but also to expand their agitation until their demands are met.