Mall Road witnesses another protest
LAHORE: A group of seven visually impaired individuals on Wednesday blocked the Mall Road from near the Charing Cross (Faisal Chowk) to press the government for the fulfilment of their demands, throwing the city’s traffic out of gear.
Talking to Pakistan Today, they said their only demand from the government was to provide them with jobs or else they would continue their protest for life. They said they did not have individual names and the name of their group was ‘Fiaz’.
“Every time we stage a protest, the government makes false promises of providing us with jobs if we end our protest, but no jobs are provided,” they said. The government once constituted a committee headed by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and another time a committee headed by Minister Khalil Tahir Sindhu, they said while adding that no one listens to them afterwards.
“We hold Master’s degrees, but have no jobs. Even if we are ever offered any jobs, they are not permanent and are either on daily wages or work charge basis,” said the group.
They accused the social welfare department’s officer Arif Siddique of hurling abuses at them and threatening them of dire consequences if they do not end their protest.
“Arif Siddique came here and threatened us that we will be beaten with sticks and rods if we continue our protest,” they alleged.
They further said the government had stopped their acquaintances in other cities including Gujranwala, Sahiwal and Sialkot so that they cannot join them in the protest. The blind people are working either on contracts or daily wages and are not being paid properly. If they get their salaries, the government deducts a large amount of it even for availing official leaves, they added.
Social Welfare Officer Arif Siddique while rejecting the allegations levelled on him questioned, “How can I threaten them when I did not even go near them?”
Social Welfare Department Deputy Director Mubashir Javed said the government had announced various jobs in different departments after the protest of the special persons.
“Around 180 jobs have been created in the social welfare department alone, but a procedure is adopted and followed in government organisations. The hiring process is still underway in different departments,” he said.
“All the visually impaired who are participating in the protest are friends with Fiaz who is leading the protest for his own sake. He failed a typing test and now wants the job by staging such protests. The government has a lenient view towards the protesters due to an ugly incident from recent past and they while taking a benefit of the government’s leniency, are now blackmailing us,” he said.
The official added that the social welfare department is taking care of all such people and is even arranging a dinner for them despite the fact that they are staging such a protest.
DSP Dastgir Khan said the police cannot arrest them. “When we asked them to end the protest, they said that if the leaders of political parties can hold rallies and stage protests on the Mall Road then why can’t the blind protest for their demands,” he said.
Lahore Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Rai Ijaz visited the protesters to negotiate with them, but the attempt went in vain.
The protest was being held till the filing of this report.