Employees of WAPDA along with hundreds of workers of other DISCOs and hydroelectric entities across Pakistan stormed into Islamabad on Monday and staged a sit-in at Express Chowk over the proposed privatization of WAPDA.
Motorcades, comprising 100 to 150 vehicles reached National Press Club from Rawat and Motorway, transporting the employees’ unions of WAPDA to the capital from Punjab and KPK, stated the police. Around 4000 people were a part of the protest including WAPDA staff, members of unions and bodies of pensioners and laborers. Contractual employees of Radio Pakistan, Pakistan Television Network also joined in to demand their rights. The workers marched towards D-Chowk in the afternoon and reached Express Chowk. Containers and barbed wires were laid down at old Parade Ground to stop them from entering the Red Zone.
Along with rejecting the possible downsizing, the protesters asked for a 24 per cent increase in their salaries. Talking to the media, the protesters said that Water and Power Division Authority (WAPDA) was the second biggest national entity after Pakistan army. Several attempts have been made to privatize the power development authority but they failed to materialize due to the unity of the workers, they added.
The sit-in was also attended by the provincial chapters of the union i.e., Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Balochistan, and the Punjab.
One of WAPDA’s employees, identified as Riaz Khan, native of Rawalakot, suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to Poly Clinic where he passed away, informed the police.
Over 600 well-equipped police officials besides Rangers were deployed at the spot to stop the protestors and maintain law and order in the capital.
The government has detained some of our workers in different parts of Punjab and the unions will also work out their future line of action in accordance with the leadership’s advice, the protestors told the media. They also lambasted the current government for increasing the prices of all essential items and not including 140,000 workers associated with WAPDA and Discos in the recently announced pay raise. PM Khan’s government is forcing the masses to commit suicide, they added.
The protesters criticized the government for disposing of profitable entities like Guddu; Nandipur in the name of privatization. The privatization of Karachi Electric (KE) has proved the failure of the power companies, they argued.
WAPDA employees call off protest after negotiations
The sit-in concluded after a delegation of protesters met with the Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan who guaranteed that WAPDA will not be privatized and there will be no downsizing. He also assured the delegation that the pay raise issue would be taken up in the coming cabinet meeting.
Though leaders of WAPDA Employees’ Union announced to conclude the sit-in after meeting with the ministers around 1,500 – from utility services along with laborers did not budge. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan asked them to call of the protest after promising to address their demands in the upcoming cabinet meeting.