The people of Pakistan have experienced a strange history of protests and their economical repercussion on individuals and the country as a whole.The protests bring the cities to a standstill, as the angry mobs cause blockade through the streets, roads and main national highways.
The protests are taken out by the political parties, civil society for the human rights or demanding justice for any injustice with any person or any brutal murder and the employees protesting for their salary raise, allowances, structure, bonuses, privatization of govt enterprises and regularization issues.
Even excessive regulation issues irk the employees to adopt the way of protests as such laws and regulation might endanger their jobs.
The protests are also carried out by the families and relatives to mourn the deaths of their near and dear ones who lost their lives in the fake police encounters or forcible disappearance of people demanding their recovery. These include various nationalists, suspects and other persons.
The protests include traffic jams, hunger strikes, long marches, sit-ins, protest demos. Though, these types of protests are globally held even in developed countries like the US, UK, Germany and the popular Yellow vest movement in France is an example.
Pakistan’s last seven decades are also replete with such protests whenever any elected government failed to deliver or marshal laws that practised authoritarian rule to suppress the dissenting voices or when people felt that their right to freedom of expression is compromised by dictatorial leadership.
The angry mobs take to streets and record their protests in favour of their genuine demands. Such protests have so far been very successful and the government is compelled to bow down before these employees’unions, civil society, and political workers and disperse the protesters after dialogue process because the use of force will further aggravate the situation and turn the scene into a battleground if the situation is mishandled by law enforcement agencies.
There are several examples of such circumstances in the past that made it very difficult for the governments to deal with such violent protests. The resistance and resilience go hand in hand when both the protesters and the high ups and policymakers show their stubbornness to accept the demands.
This leads to “wheel jams”, “pen down” protest demos and hunger strikes putting governments under immense pressure leaving no other option except the acceptance of their demands to peacefully disperse violent mobs who engulf the executive’soffice and try to cross the Red Zone.
The protests become more extreme when religious parties take to roads against any religious or blasphemy issue.
It is pertinent to mention here that mostly the top bureaucrats consider themselves superior creatures that is because they pass such exam that is branded as Central Superior Services atfederal level and provincial management service at provincial level .
Their lethargic attitude leads to the protests since employees consider it the last option to put pressure on the top bureaucracy with coverage of media as service tribunals and courts don’t offer any timely relief for such affected employees whose services are either terminated, suspended or dismissed on various reasons. Even high costs of advocates are too heavy for them to afford to fight their case.
If we take the example of the education and health departments, the secretary level bureaucrats feel that they are experts in policy making for these key social sector departments but the fact is that these departments could be run smoothly by the executive officers from the health and education since they understand the technical terms and needs of the departments more effectively than these civil servants who can only handle office and revenue related tasks .
It is ironic that there is no quota of gazetted officers from education and health departments to be posted as secretaries, additional secretaries and section officers.
It is disappointing to note that if any Grade 17, 18, 19 and 20 officer is posted at a secretariat in his/her parent department, these top bureaucrats challenge the appointment as ‘non-cadre.’
It is beyond understanding that despite being the production of teachers, these civil servants consider the teachers incompetent to run the affairs of their own department.
It is sheer injustice to note that when we compare the perks and privileges of both civil servants and other teaching and admin cadre officers, we are astonished to see such huge disparities between their pay packages. Even government confers special allowances and perks upon the employees of President House, PM house, Senate, National Assembly, Governor House, CM house and Secretariat employee such as utility allowances, pay bonuses, house rent and other privileges which are not provided to any employee serving at divisional, district and tehsil level.
The perks such as time scale, increments are offered to one department while another department is deprived of such perks.
There is no unified or uniform pay package that is causing discontent and sense of deprivation. Our judiciary enjoys high pay packages and they should also pass ruling to bring the pay package in the same stage in lieu of grades to address the anomalies.
It means all gradesirrespective of their departments should make the same salary if the violent protests and pen down strikes are to be avoided.
It is also worthy to mention here that the pay packages of the employees of corporate enterprises such as PIA, OGDCL, SSGC, SNGPL, and PPL etc are five times higher with fringe benefits such as unlimited health facilities, free education and scholarships and overtime facilities that are rare in other departments.
Such high-level disparities warrant that govt should address the variance in the pay packages of government employees, project based positions and corporate employees so that anomalies could be resolved.
The pay and pension commission should review the situation in the upcoming Annual Budget 2019-2020 to provide relief to those who are deprived of such perks and privileges that are available to other employees.
It is unjust to favour some employees working in Federal and Provincial Secretariats i.e President House, PM House, Senate , National Assembly , Governor House , CM House, Provincial Assemblies Secretariats while deprivingothers who are also governed under the same Civil Servant rules.
The policy of postings, transfers, promotions and regularization must be revised and a quota with ratio of 60:40 should be approved in each department. The promotion cases must be dealt on an annual basis to avoid the disappointment of employees as it affects their output.
The civil services reforms are the need of the hour so that administrative unbalance could be fixed and protests of deprived employees could be averted by providing them with their due right of promotion, confirmation, regularization etc.
I recall the case of some teachers who were appointed through recruitment tests conducted by Professional Testing Services such as NTS, Sindh University, Sukkur IBA and other agencies in a transparent manner by Sindh Government but after completion of their contract, they are protesting for their confirmation since govt is bound to regulate the services of such teachers.
Is it justified that teachers should protest for their rights on the streets of Karachi while police baton charges them and uses tear gas and water cannons to disperse them?
Finally, it’s pertinent to add that unless the disparities are addressed, the protests will continue. Even the use of force will be counterproductive and may create serious repercussions beyond the control of government.