Protesting teachers to hold presser today

Lahore:December 28:As the third day of their protest for salaries and regularisation ended without any talks with the authorities concerned, the teachers affiliated with different groups said on Wednesday that they would hold a press conference on Thursday (today) to announce their future course of action. The demonstrators also warned of a possible move towards the security Red Zone if officials failed to come out for talks. School Education Secretary Iqbal Hussain Durrani was scheduled to come for a meeting with the protesters on Wednesday to hear their problems and recommend possible solutions. Representatives of the protesting teacher groups had also agreed to attend the meeting, but the official failed to show up throughout the day. Though no government representative came out for talks with the teachers, several political leaders and social workers visited the protest camp yesterday, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders Arif Alvi and Halim Adil Shiekh and Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-Fazl leader Rashid Mehmood Soomro. They sympathised with the plight of the teachers and expressed concerns over the Sindh government’s failure to resolve the protesters’ issues on a priority basis. As the day drew to a close, New Teachers’ Action Committee Chairman Abubakar Abro said they would hold a press conference on Thursday (today) to announce the protesters’ future course of action. He lamented that the government seemed adamant on using force against the teachers instead of hearing out their demands. The protesters consist of four major groups: National Testing Service (NTS) teachers, the Primary Teachers Association (PTA), teachers appointed in 2010 through a test at the Sindh University and the New Teachers Action Committee’s (NTAC) teachers appointed in 2012 by former education minister Pir Mazharul Haq. The total strength of NTS teachers is 15,000; teachers appointed in 2010 are 8,800 in number; the PTA has 40,000 members; and the NTAC has a 4,400-strong membership comprising both teaching and non-teaching staff. However, around 2,000 teachers have gathered at the press club for the sit-in. They have two major demands: to be regularised and to be paid their salaries. But the PTA has also called for being promoted to the upper grades. NTAC’s Abro had earlier told The News that the provincial government used its power to try to silence the teachers, but he asserted that it was not a permanent solution. “We were legally appointed,” he clarified. Abro said that in the past five years the Sindh administration had made numerous promises of releasing teachers’ salaries but it never fulfilled it, adding that when they took to the streets, the police pushed them towards violence and then government officials made a new promise. “I have attended a number of meetings with high-ranking officials of the Sindh government, but the provincial administration is not determined to solve our problems.” A representative of the teachers appointed in 2010 said the Sindh government had awarded regular status of jobs to other employees of the provincial departments and those employees were also appointed the same year. Even teachers of the same lot from the Karachi region enjoy regular status, but only teachers from interior Sindh are suffering and are forced to protest for their rights, he added. Muhammad Ahmed, a representative of NTS teachers, said they were appointed through the NTS, which was one of the most credible testing services in Pakistan. But, he claimed, the provincial administration wanted to make political appointments after snatching jobs from competent NTS teachers. The education department had earlier announced conducting an NTS test for new appointments. The protesting groups of teachers declared that they would not go back home until the officials of the education department ensured regular status of their jobs and payment of their salaries. Also, on Tuesday, Sindh Inspector General of Police (IGP) AD Khowaja expressed serious concerns over the use of violence by police in dispersing the protesting teachers outside the Karachi Press Club. He directed the Karachi police to avoid undue use of force and coordinate with the protesters to avoid unpleasant consequences. According to his spokesman, IGP Khowaja said the Sindh police recognised and respected the right of the citizens to conduct peaceful protests. “The Karachi police handle at an average of eight to 10 protests every day which are regulated smoothly.” However, the provincial police chief also appealed to the growers and teachers’ associations interested in staging protest demonstrations to exercise their legal rights within the bounds of law and without causing undue inconvenience to the citizens or hindrances in the smooth flow of traffic. He said the teachers and growers were a source of inspiration for future generations and, therefore, they should be cautious against exploitation by vested groups by setting exemplary conduct in respecting the law.The news.

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