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March 24, 2012

‘Protesting’ labourers booked under extortion charges

National

March 24, 2012

Karachi
The labourers, who were picked up during a joint Rangers-police raid in Ittehad Town on Wednesday night, were formally shown booked under extortion charges late on Thursday night. Labourers staged a rally on Friday, alleging that their movement for the rights was being crushed by portraying them as extortionists.
Earlier, the whereabouts of some 12 labourers were not known as the area police denied detaining them.According to General Secretary of All Ittehad Power Looms Mazdoor Union (Registered) Muhammad Amin, seven workers who were said to be in the Rangers’ custody were handed over to the Machko police station, while one of the “abducted” workers Hazrat Yusuf was released. An FIR has been registered against 12 workers of six industrial units in which some office-bearers of the union were also nominated.
Amin said that these workers were booked on the charges of demanding extortion amounting to Rs7,10,000 per month from their employer who is a noted exporter of textile garments.
It is pertinent to mention here that the custody of these workers was handed over to the police only after The News attempted to seek Rangers’ version about the detention of these workers on Thursday night. The Rangers spokesman had denied taking any kind of action against these workers.
Amin said that the released labourer Hazrat Yusuf was too much terrified and he was not in a position to narrate the ordeal of his detention by the Rangers. He said that Yusuf started weeping when he was asked by his coworkers whether he was tortured during the custody. Interestingly, police record shows that the FIR against these workers was registered on March 14, whereas they were picked up during a raid a couple of days ago. There arises a question as to why the LEAs took so much time to take action against these “extortionists” when the FIR was registered on the said date. However, the police used to deny that these labourers were in their custody.
According

to the union leader, the police and the Rangers conducted an operation against some workers of the factories on Wednesday night, who had been protesting for the last one-and-a-half months for the increase in their wages and for having weekly off.
Amin said all these workers hardly earn Rs7,000 per month and they work for 12 to 16 hours a day, which was against the labour laws. “There are around 2,000 power-looms and towel manufacturing industries at Ittehad Town, which are not even duly registered under the Factory Act, and the workers in question do not have appointment letters and they are not registered with the EOBI (Employees Old-age Benefit Institution) or with any other organization that is responsible for the welfare of the labourers.”
He said that 350 labourers from six industrial units were fired from their jobs and new workers were recruited at these factories being owned by a single proprietor. Meanwhile, hundreds of labourers associated with the union staged a rally near Zainab Market facing the Governor House and marched towards Karachi Press Club (KPC).They were carrying placards inscribed with slogans against the Rangers and the police.
The rally participants also included Siaf-ur-Rehman, Nizam Afridi, Bacha Ali, Akhtar Ali, Shaukat, Irshad, Khan Zareen, Abdul Muhammad, Muhammad Amin, Sanaullah, Azam and Umar Gul, who have been nominated in the FIR. Abdul Muhammad is the president and Muhammad Amin is the general secretary of the union.
Deputy General Secretary of National Trade Unions Federation (NTUF) Nasir Mansoor, who also participated in the rally, told this scribe that the labourers’ movement for their rights was being crushed by leveling extortion charges against them.
“It is a simple industrial dispute and the workers had approached Labour Directorate for getting their rights but the industrialist did not appear before the directorate,” he said. “The labourers are being threatened with dire consequences since the employer has connections with high-ups.”

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