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November 4, 2011

NTUF to protest against convictions in Faisalabad power loom case

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November 4, 2011

The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Faisalabad has sentenced six labour leaders in the powerloom worker’s case, who had led workers in observing a strike, a decision which has generated frustration and resentment among trade unions.
National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), which is leading other trade unions on the issue, held a meeting on Tuesday to create awareness and plan protest demonstrations throughout the country.
NTUF Deputy Secretary Nasir Mansoor, while denouncing the 490 years of total jail sentences to six labour leaders of Faisalabad, said it was appalling that innocent workers were being treated as people who had committed some heinous crime.
The six leaders representing Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM) were sentenced to lifetime imprisonment on charges of being involved in holding a strike for a 17 percent raise in labour wages in a courts session headed by Justice Mian Muhammad Anwar Nazir.
On the other hand, the court’s decision was justified by saying that those sentenced were not only involved in observing a strike, but also ransacked and burned a factory. The convicted labour leaders included Akbar Ali Kamboh, Babar Shafiq Randhawa, Fazal Elahi, Rana Riaz Ahmed, Muhammad Aslam Malik and Asghar Ali.
Four of the sentenced were arrested on 22nd July 2010 by Faisalabad police whereas the other two were taken into custody four months ago.
The counsel for workers claims that the allegation of burning down a factory was completely false; adding that on the contrary, it was gangsters working for the factory owner who had started firing. After hearing the firing, some workers dared to go inside and forced the gangsters to stop firing, the counsel added.
More than 100,000 workers of powerloom in Faisalabad district had gone on strike for an increase in wages, which had been announced by the government during the presentation of the 2010-11 budget.
The government announced a 17 % increase in the minimum wages for private sector

workers of LQM, a representative organisation of powerloom workers in Faisalabad, Jhang and other districts. Negotiations for the wage increase had been taking place for three weeks with owners of the powerloom factories.
The local police also played a very negative role as they asked the labour leaders to come to the police station for negotiations, but just as the leaders reached, they found themselves implicated in a false case, the counsel concluded. They further alleged that a political party (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) was backing the violators of law in this case and it acted against the aspirations of workers.
According to supporters of the workers, senior lawyer, human rights activist and chairperson of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Asma Jehanghir was among the leaders who had taken part in the rallies in support of detention of workers in this case and now she has expressed her deep concern over this surprising decision, the counsel noted.

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