ISLAMABAD-The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Friday condemned the use of force by the police to disperse a peaceful protest by teachers at D-Chowk.

A statement issued said that HRCP’s fact-finding team was told that a large police contingent raided the protest camp and arrested over 200 protesters, including women and, allegedly, their accompanying children.

The protesters, most of whom teach at remote schools under the Basic Education Community System, say that they cannot subsist on the salary they receive – Rs8,000 a month.

Many have received no increments in the last two years; still others are waiting to be paid ten months’ back-salary. Their services have not been regularised, which means they constantly face job insecurity. After staging a sit-in in 2018, they were assured by the interior minister, federal ministry of education and joint secretary for education that their employment would be regularised within a year. This has not happened. Yet some 700,000 students are taught under this scheme, which spans 137 districts and employs almost 12,000 teachers. The state’s response has been shockingly disproportionate. Protesters have accused the police of locking women inside containers on the pretext of safety while using water cannons and batons to disperse other protesters outside. While those arrested have been granted bail, many protesters say that their belongings were seized by the police and that they do not have the funds to secure bail. The police have said that the protesters attempted to enter the Red Zone, necessitating force.

The HRCP urges the government to respect people’s right to peaceful assembly and to meet their demand for a living wage and regular employment without further delay. A state that fails to respect teachers’ right to a decent livelihood will end up failing its people.