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Karachi

June 14, 2018

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Call to recover all missing persons before Eid

Right now, the greatest human rights violation taking place is the case of the missing persons. This was stated by Zulfikar Shah, joint director, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), while addressing a press conference along with other rights and labour leaders at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday afternoon.

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Shah said, “These unfortunate people should be released within two days so that they may be able to spend the blessed occasion of Eid with their kith-and-kin, and in case of those against whom there are serious charges, they should be brought to a fair trial, which is every citizen’s constitutional and natural right.”

He said that last year alone 154 people had been picked up in Sindh and to date there was no word on their whereabouts. He said that according to records, there were 1,300 people missing in the province.

Article 10-A of the Constitution of Pakistan provides every citizen with the right to fair trial, he said. Speakers at the press conference also expressed serious concern over the violation of labour rights in the country.

Liaquat Sahi, president of the State Bank of Pakistan Workers’ Union, said that while Article 17 of the constitution guaranteed freedom of association and trade unionism, workers were being denied this right. “The ILO conventions on health and safety of workers are going by the board and the report presented by the government to the ILO is not based on facts,” Sahi said. He said that contrary to the world body’s regulations workers were subject to 12-hour work shifts. In passing, he said that even the media workers were subjected to these injustices.

He further said that just as there’s a minimum wage, there should also be a maximum wage to bring about parity, and cited the cases of bank executives who were getting salaries in tens of millions while the workers who really worked with the sweat of their brow were getting a measly amount, much below the government-stipulated minimum wage.

He also cited the recent massive devaluation of the rupee and the petrol price rise and said that this affected the minimum wage earners the most and that they must be provided relief.

Noted labour leader Habibuddin Junaidi, said, “We hope elections will be prompt”. The whole working class, he said, was committed to parliamentary democracy, but regretted that while there were reserved seats for women in parliament and others, there were no reserved seats for workers’ representatives “even though it is the workers who keep the country going”, he said.

He also regretted that out of a total national strength of 65 million workers, only one per cent were in organised, independent labour unions, and the rest were condemned to pocket unions which were manipulated by exploitative capitalist owners.

The contract system, he said, had broken the back of the workers. “There’s no implementation of labour laws; otherwise, the massive Baldia factory fire tragedy would never have taken place,” he said.

Banks, he said, had become “Begar” camps. Bonuses, medical facilities and retirement benefits had been terminated. He called upon the interim government to seriously look into these unfavourable trends and provide the long deserved remedy to the working classes.

Mehnaz Rehman, director, Aurat Foundation, said that women were the double sufferers as along with dearness which made running a household all the more difficult they also had the sorrow of separation from their husbands who had been whisked off to undisclosed destinations and thus were plunged into frightening uncertainty.

Calling for an immediate release of the missing persons, she also called for amending the electoral system whereby the women from the middle and lower middle classes were given representation in parliament rather than the idle rich elite.

Raheel Iqbal, president of the Karachi Export Processing Zones (KEPZ) workers union, said that there were six EPZs in Pakistan but at none of them were the workers given any medical facilities or allowances.

Most workers at these EPZs were getting salaries less than Rs10,000 a month, he said, adding that while the chief justice of Pakistan was active taking notice of irregularities in various organisations, he should also order a thorough probe into the injustices being meted out to the workers.

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