Police operation gets PTCL building cleared
By Imran Ali Teepu & Kalbe Ali
ISLAMABAD: A police operation cleared the premises of Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PTCL) of the employees on strike, with conflicting versions about what started the clash here on Friday evening.
The police said it arrested 25 of the employees on strike, accusing them of opening fire on them and injuring seven policemen.
Though denied by the police, the eyewitnesses said police fired in the air to create confusion among the employees on strike, who were having dinner at the time of raid. Before the raid power to the area was disconnected. The union leaders said 200 of their colleagues were detained and 15 key leaders were shifted to Tarnol police station.
The PTCL employees, demanding 50 per cent increase in their salaries, have been staging demonstration in the headquarters building for the last few days.
“We were forced to open fire in the air to disburse workers who pelted stones and damaged our vehicles,” SP Liaquat Ali told Dawn.
He said the PTCL workers were allowed to hold peaceful protest but the tussle started when one of the workers made an announcement from a mosque seeking help of workers living in a housing colony meters away from the company’s headquarters for rescuing their colleagues from the police operation.
SP Ali claimed that workers opened fire on the police positioned far from them. He added that most of the workers arrested from the building were not from Islamabad. The police arrested few more workers who were raising slogans against the management from the headquarters building.
“The only option we are left with was to disburse the crowd by shelling and firing in the air,” said a junior elite security official. He said around 300 police officials took part in the operation.
“It’s unfair. All we need is an increase in salaries. It is our constitutional and legal right,” said one of the workers arrested after the shelling. “They have started operation which resulted in all this mess,” he added.
Police continued to patrol around the building while Rangers officials stayed inside the headquarters. SSP Tahir Alam Khan and police officials reached the PTCL headquarters after the completion of the operation and held talks with the PTCL security staff.
A Pims spokesman said three policemen and two PTCL employees were brought to the hospital with minor injuries.
Talking to Dawn, the PTCL spokesperson expressed ignorance about the raid, saying it was conducted by police “on their own”.
“What we have learned is that employees were regularly blocking the key road links of the capital and on late Friday evening they had skirmishes with police outside the head office, which might have prompted the police action,” the spokesperson said.
The unions have announced to continue protest across the country and hold a demonstration in front of Parliament House on Saturday.