LAHORE - About 2,000 policemen staged a prolonged protest in Lahore on Wednesday as the government has not renewed their contracts, which expired last month but they are still performing their duties without being paid.
The protesting cops are said to be ex-army men, who had been recruited as constables on contract basis in the Punjab police department in 2012. On Wednesday afternoon, they went on strike and refused to join their duties.
More than 1,000 cops were not allowed to leave the Police Lines Qila Gujjar Singh when they tried to join the protest demonstration. However, hundreds of policemen gathered in front of the Lahore Press Club and started protesting against the department, demanding from the government to renew their service contracts and release their salaries, pending since October.
They raised slogans against the police and the provincial government and refused to initiate talks for which Lahore DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf and SP (Headquarters) Omar Saeed had to reach the sopt of protest.
The demonstration turned into a sit-in on Wednesday night after the protesters refused to leave the venue, stating that they would not call off the strike until or unless their demands are fulfilled. “We will not move an inch (from our stance) unless the notification (regarding the renewal of service contract) is issued. We are on strike,” a police constable said.
The ex-service men were also chanting slogans against the police, but in favour of the Pakistan Army.
“Why we are being discriminated? We are performing 18-hour long security duties on daily basis but we are not being paid salaries since October,” a protesting constable told this report outside LPC.
The protest demonstration, which began at 02:00pm and continued till filing of this report, triggered worst traffic mess in the downtown. The traffic wardens had to divert vehicles towards alternate routes after the protesting policemen blocked the road. A great number of motorists were seen trapped on the roads for hours as the wardens failed to control vehicular traffic. There was a huge traffic mess on the Mall, Davis Road, and Garhi Shahu area because of the protests.
Lahore DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf reached the spot to convince the protesters but they refused to end their demonstration. Ultimately, their boss had to leave the protest site. Later, SP (Headquarters) Omar Saeed along with heavy police contingents landed at the protest venue to hold negotiations with the cops.
While addressing the policemen, he appealed them to end their protest campaign and reach the Police Lines where they would be given new contracts. But the cops refused to accept the offer stating, “It is not genuine.” Later, the SP returned to headquarters.
Talking to reporters on this occasion, a constable said that they would call off the strike only if the notification was issued.
Requesting anonymity, a police source at the Central Police Office (CPO) said that the hiring and firing of these policemen was done on the orders of the Punjab government.
“It is up to the provincial government to decide about the fate of these cops. The police department simply has to follow the policies of the government,” he added.
The Lahore police, which manhandled even the blind protesters at the same place a couple of weeks ago, were seen handling their colleagues politely. Literally, there was no one to force the protesting policemen to clear the road amid traffic jumbles.
Instead of taking action against the officials of the otherwise disciplined force, senior officers were seen watching the whole situation like silent spectators.
More interestingly, at a time when the country is facing serious security threats, the Punjab government has fired more than 2000 well-trained policemen. It was also learnt that the government did not renew their contracts because of budget constraints.
According to police sources, the protesters ended the sit-in late Wednesday night after the government extended their contract for another six months.