The Imran Khan government is on war with its own people—journalists, lawyers, doctors, women health workers, government employees and now farmers.
It seems all and sundry are out on the streets of Islamabad, raising slogans against Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government. For years, they have been demanding a raise in their salaries to match the galloping inflation and the Imran Khan government has been quietly sitting on their demand despite the Prime Minister being cautioned by his own colleagues about the gravity of the situation.
What is now angering the protesting employees is that the government, instead of addressing their grievance, decided to let loose police on them, teargassing them and arresting many of their leaders.
Not happy with raining tear gas canisters on own employees, the government unleashed brutal police power on farmers in Lahore demanding fair and just price for their wheat and a reasonable rate for the power to run their tube wells. One of the farmers died in the clashes with the police. The police then went about rounding up the leaders of farmers.
Last month, university students protesting against physical examinations faced the police wrath in Lahore and Faisalabad. In Lahore, when the Punjab University students staged a sit-in, they were baton-charged first by the university security. Many of the students were injured in the attack. In Faislabad, several students were injured when they were first hit by security guards and then the local police.
Students across Pakistan have taken to the streets in protest of the universities’ decision of holding physical exams for the Fall semester 2020-2021. Protests sprung up in Bahawalpur, Multan, and Dera Ghazi Khan as well.
Farmers, like students, have been on a warpath in other parts of the country. In January this year, farmers in Hyderabad, Sindh, staged a demonstration against the government over tomato prices. More than 200 women cotton crop workers from 10 villages of Matiari district in Sindh took part in a conference in February this year talking about how the government had failed to listen to their pleas about poor working condition, lack of health safety measures, low wages and impact of climate change on the health of women agriculture workers.
Last year, thousands of women staged a nation-wide protest march demanding equal rights. It was the largest ever women rights demonstrations in Pakistan. They raised slogans against the increasing rate of rape, honour killings and sexual violence in the country. The World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan 151 out of 153 countries in its 2020 Global Gender Gap Index Report. Violence against women, including rape, domestic abuse and harassment, have become serious issues during the Imran Khan regime.
In 2020, women health workers went on a week-long protest outside the National Assembly demanding better pay and facilities. More than 500 women with young children in town slept out in the open in Islamabad.
In January this year, a large number of textile and garments factory workers staged a protest rally against the violation of labour laws in Karachi. The protesting workers threatened to stage a sit-in in front of the Sindh Assembly if their demands were not met. Workers complain that they were being deprived of their labour rights. Thousands of mine workers similarly protested against the spike in accidental deaths of mineworkers in the country. This month, thousands of electricity workers have threatened to come out on to the streets demanding better wages and pension. Elsewhere in the country, hundreds and thousands of sacked employees of various industrial units have been carrying out protests in different modes.