All detained protesters in Islamabad released after successful talks

Government employees enjoy swings at a park in F-6 in Islamabad on Thursday while their leaders were busy in holding talks with ministers which later ended successfully. — INP

ISLAMABAD: Over 200 government employees, including some trade union leaders, who had been picked up by the police on Wednesday during a violent protest, were released on Thursday evening, hours after signing of an agreement between their representatives and the government.

Sources told Dawn that some of the union leaders, who had been arrested by the capital police under 3MPO (Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960), also participated in the negotiations with the government ministers which were held at the official residence of Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

The sources said these leaders, who had been kept at various police stations of the capital city, were brought to the minister’s residence for talks after the administration received instructions from the federal government. During the negotiations, the sources said, the detained leaders were told categorically that all those who had been arrested or picked up by the police on Wednesday would be released without any further proceedings against them, in case they reached an agreement.

Those who had been brought to the minister’s residence for talks included head of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Union Amanullah Khan and Rahman Bajwa. After completion of the talks, these leaders were again shifted to the police installations from where they were later formally released in the evening.

Talking to Dawn after his release, Amanullah Khan said that after arresting him on Wednesday, the police had taken him to the Cabinet Division block for a meeting with Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat. The deputy commissioner, he said, asked him to play a “positive role” in resolving the issue. After his meeting with the deputy commissioner, he said, he was again shifted to the police station.

He said a group of 12 leaders of various unions attended the meeting at the interior minister’s residence and five of them, including himself and Rahman Bajwa, had been brought from the police stations.

Amanullah praised the positive role played by Chief Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ahmed Ali and DC Hamza Shafqaat.

Earlier, hundreds of protesters once again gathered at Secretariat Chowk at Constitution Avenue on Thursday morning to continue their protest. Besides them, a large number of protesters had also assembled at Jinnah Avenue near Old Parade Ground.

The protesters staged sit-ins, but remained peaceful after getting the reports that the government had invited their representatives for the talks. The protesters then marched towards the National Press Club in the afternoon and remained there till the finalisation of the agreement with the government, which agreed to give them a 25 per cent increase in the salaries on ad hoc basis.

After receiving the news about the successful talks and signing of the agreement, the protesters celebrated their “victory”. They remained outside the press club till the release of their all colleagues by the police after which they once again marched to D-Chowk where copies of the agreement were also distributed among them. Some of their leaders also delivered speeches on the occasion and congratulated the protesting employees on their success.

Amanullah Khan said that those protesters who had come from other parts of the country would leave for their homes in the morning.