Report: Nisar Mansoor
KARACH: A big moot of workers here Sunday demanded of the government to raise wages of labours in proportion to the price hike, and freeze payment of all foreign loans and their interest to stabilize the sagging economy.
As per details, National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) on the occasion of May 1 organized a big Jalsa of workers at Labour Square, SITE Karachi that was attended by a huge number of workers. It was jointly presided over by NTUF president Rafiq Baloch and HBWWF general secretary Zehra Khan.
The speakers of the moot said that the basic questions and demands raised by the Chicago workers still await answers. For a sustainable social justice and democracy in the world it is necessary that the means of production be made a collective possession of society. The history has proved that the supremacy of capital has not only promoted wars, hunger, killings, diseases and joblessness but also strengthened an anti-human and anti-environmental system which gives birth to all sorts of injustice. Resultantly, snatching the resources of nations, depriving women and children of their rights and imposing fascism in the name of religion, cast, creed and patriotism are being witnessed by the society. This system despite its so-called progress forces billions of people to spend a life that worse than animals. A decisive victory over this system would guarantee a sustainable peace and development in the world.
The labour leaders said that in a backward country like Pakistan, capitalism is present in its worst form. Here the ruling classes and their political and security outfits despite all their internal conflicts are fully agreed to implement anti-people economic and political policies. The rulers have deprived more than 7.5 Crore workers of factories, workplaces and farms of their basic rights of trade unions, social security and old age pension. They showed a criminal negligence even in getting implemented the government-announced minimum wages. The anti-labour essence of the prevailing democratic system is a big hindrance in way of pro-labour legislation. Seventy percent citizens who give vote to elected representatives belong to the working class but they have no representation in parliament. The ruling classes are there to safeguard the vested interests of local Capital and foreign lender institutions who have enslaved the people. The former government of Imran Khan just for a loan of six billion US dollars sold 22 Crore people to International Monetary Fund (IMF) that is an institution to safeguard the American interests. The central bank has been handed over to a salaried person of capitalist financial institution and his economic batman was imposed as the finance advisor. Now the multi-party new government is also begging the IMF for loans. This government is talking about an additional loan of two billion dollars. All these governments are agents of capitalist institutions and killers of people.
They said that half of the population of the country has already gone beneath the poverty line. During last two years more than one and half Crore people were rendered fully or partially jobless and five million more families went beneath the poverty line; however, the rulers used helicopters to commute between office and home. These rulers obtained national gifts from Toshakhana on cheaper rates and shamelessly sold them in market on profit. This shows the low mentality of these rulers. There is a need that instead of supporting them the masses should launch a struggle to get rid of them.
The labour leaders said that the rulers are taking no serious steps to cope with the prevailing economic crisis. The worsening conditions in the country could give birth to a dreadful human tragedy. The imprudent and wrong policies of the imposed rulers are responsible for this tragedy. This crisis is not the result of just governmental or administrative failure but this State and economic crisis is the direct result of the failure of economy. The sluggish production process is unable to cope with the ongoing economic crisis. The purchasing power of millions of people has already been diminished. Local markets have been facing a preputial depression. The foreign exchange obtained from exports and remittances of overseas Pakistanis (estimated 55 billion dollars) is not sufficient to meet the import expenses (about 70 billion dollars) and the gap would be bridged through more foreign loans. Presently the foreign loans of the government are 118 billion dollars and of them 50 billion dollars loans were obtained during the period of the PTI government. To save the country from becoming another Sri Lanka and to support the balance of payments the country would need twelve billion dollars in coming three months, which would push the nation further deep into the pit of loans. The overall economic scenario shows that after payment of foreign loans and their interest and meeting defense and administrative expenses there would be nothing to spend on development projects.
The working class in Pakistan is facing the worst economic crisis due to the agreement inked with the IMF in 2019. The prices of edibles especially wheat flour, pluses, sugar, rice, ghee, milk, meat and vegetables have gone out of the reach of common man. The rates of basic necessities like electricity, gas, medicines, petroleum products, public transport and education are dangerously hiked, creating a hue and cry in low-income classes. The inflation rate is at a dangerous level of 12 percent. In the result of the promises made by the present government to the IMF, there would be no any ray of hope for the poor masses.
The speakers said that the new government also has no solid planning and program for bringing a betterment in the lives of working-class people. The incoming and outgoing rulers both are befooling the masses with catchy slogans. In these circumstances, the only way out is that the working-class masses should organise themselves in the light of the fundamental questions raised by the workers of Chicago to become an alternate political force.
The speakers said that on the platform of this rally they would appeal to all organisations of Pakistani workers, Leftist parties, human rights organisations, journalists, lawyers, doctors, paramedics, students, youth, women, transgenders, minorities, teachers, and intellectuals to provide guidance to chalk out a joint program to cope with the prevailing crisis.
The Jalsa demanded that labour laws should be fully implemented in factories and workplaces. Wages should be paid banks through bank accounts and they should be linked to trade union making. Contract labour system should be made a crime. Every citizen should be given the facilities of education, healthcare and housing. Public transport system should be revamped. To get rid of the capitalistic dominance and to achieve a real democracy the payment of all foreign loans and their interest should be frozen as per international best practices. Import of all luxury goods and the goods that are being produced locally or could be made locally should be banned. All non- development expenses should be slashed by 50 percent. Trade relations with the neighboring countries especially India, China and Iran should be promoted. Land reforms should be initiated to strengthen democracy and running the wheels of industry. Absent landlord-ship should be banned and all state-owned cultivatable lands should be distributed among the landless Haris free of cost. Federal entities should be empowered constitutionally. Concessional rate gas and electricity should be provided to the national export-oriented industry. Electoral reform should be introduced to give a real representation to workers, women and downtrodden classes of society. An empowered local government system should be established. Privatisation of state owned industrial and financial entities should be ended and to run these entities all stakeholders including the representatives of workers should be consulted. Women, minorities and transgenders should be recognized as equal citizens practically and all discriminatory laws should be abolished. Social divide in the name of faiths and beliefs should be ended. Right of expression should be practically implemented and unannounced censorship on media should be lifted. Extrajudicial disappearances and missing incidents of citizens should be ended. All anti-environmental projects should be halted. Razing of settlements in the name of development should be stopped and all affected families should be given compensation.
Those spoke included Nasir Mansoor, Riaz Abbasi and Gul Rehman of NTUF, Ainee Yaqoob and Parveen Bano of HBWWF, Saira Feroz and Zahida Parveen of United HB Garments Workers Union, Aqib Hussain and Bilawal of Youth organisation Alternate, Bakht Zameen, SITE Labour Forum, Saeeda Khatoon of Baldia Factory Fire Association, Taufeeq Ahmed and others.