LAHORE - Dozens of government employees were detained as police broke up their protest sit-in outside the Civil Secretariat on early Thursday.

However, almost all the protesters were released in the evening, although police registered a case against them for blocking the road, creating traffic mess and chanting anti-government slogans.

These low-paid officials of different government departments were staging a protest sit-in outside the provincial secretariat for the last couple of days. They were demanding rise in salaries, special allowances, and other benefits.

Many of the arrested protesters had arrived in Lahore from other parts of the province.

The All Pakistan Clerks Association, city district government officials, and health workers were staging the protest sit-in when hundreds of police and anti-riot units stormed their camps. Initially, the protesters offered resistance against the crackdown but they were easily overpowered by police.  The protesters were bundled into the police vans and shifted to different police station.

Haji Muhammad Irshad, Chief of the All Pakistan Clerks Association, was also among those arrested during the police crackdown. He was later sent to the Ravi Road police station.

A police officer told The Nation that an FIR was registered against the protesters with the Islampura police station. The case was registered under section 290, 291, 186/ 188 of the PPC, 16MPO and the Amplifier Act.

He claimed that all the protesters were released from the police lockups shortly before Iftar timing on Thursday. He said the protesters were trying to march towards The Mall when the police “responded.” He said that at least 39 people were arrested by police from site of the protest sit-in. The names of these 39 persons were also mentioned in the first information report.

According to the police report, the authorities warned the protesters to call off the strike because of security threats but they remained unmoved. Instead, the protesters blocked the main crossing that caused worst traffic jumbles in the busy areas. As per the police FIR, the protesters also chanted provocative and anti-government slogans. The police also seized banners and placards displayed at the site of the protest sit-in.

On the other hand, protesters claimed that they were staging a sit-in protest quite peacefully when the riot police broke up their demonstration. One of the protesters, Muhammad Boota told reporters that they were not given prior warning and the police action was all of a sudden. He also condemned the police action and demanded the government to quash the FIR as early as possible otherwise they would call for a Punjab-wide strike.

Authorities in Lahore have banned all types of protests on The Mall and police are directed to quell the agitators in case they stage a demonstration in the area declared as red-zone.