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Labour leaders ask working class to wage struggle against ‘anti-people govt, mafias’


July 5, 2020

Labour leaders at a protest on Friday said that the rising petrol prices, forced retrenchment of workers, and power and water shortages prove that the country was under the complete control of “anti-people mafias”, and a full-fledged people’s movement was needed to defeat them.

The National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF), Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) and other organisations jointly organised a protest outside the Karachi Press Club. The protest was held on the countrywide call of the NTUF and Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement. A large number of workers and representatives of political and social activists took part in the protest.

Nasir Mansoor, NTUF’s secretary general, said that even before the annual budget was passed, the government had imposed a mini-budget on the people prepared by “the mafia and economic hitmen” of the IMF.

“The government had robbed the pockets of the people by increasing the prices of petroleum products by 25 to 60 per cent in a criminal manner while keeping the legal system in abeyance,” he said. “The petroleum mafia in the government had made billions of rupees overnight. It had created a storm of rising inflation. The petroleum mafia got courage to do so because the sugar and flour mafias, which also earned billions of rupees through illegal means, went scot-free.”

He said that on the one hand the government had left 220 million people at the mercy of the deadly coronavirus due to its reckless policies, and on the other, the health workers who were fighting against the deadly epidemic were helpless. Many doctors, nurses and paramedics had died as a result of the government’s apathy towards the health sector.

Evidence of the government’s anti-people sentiment was that it had not only neglected health and education sectors in the current budget but it also did not increase the salaries and wages of workers and employees, which had pushed millions of people into further poverty and destitution, the NTUF leader said.

Zahra Khan, an HBWWF leader, said that the country was already suffering from the worst economic crisis as a result of IMF-led policies, but the incompetent government had exacerbated the crisis with its actions. “More than six million workers have lost their jobs in the last six months, while it is feared that more than 18 million workers will lose their jobs in the coming days. The situation is so bad that more than 50 per cent of the country’s population is forced to live below the poverty line.”

She stressed that most of the families of the workers were suffering from malnutrition and starvation, while the government, despite all the claims, had completely failed to provide timely and immediate assistance to the workers affected by the epidemic.

Comrade Khaliq Zadran, the Lyari Awami Mahaz convener, said that the power crisis in the country was getting worse. “The citizens of a developed city like Karachi suffer from mental and physical suffering due to 12 to 14 hours of loadshedding. Despite seventy years of independence, the citizens of the country’s largest city were deprived of basic necessities like water. Nowadays, the whole of Karachi was protesting due to non-supply of water and electricity.”

Usman Baloch, a verteran labour leader, said that the hypocritical behaviour of the government could be gauged from the fact that on the one hand the government was opposed to imposing lockdowns to save the jobs of the workers, and the other hand it had privatised more than 43 institutions to make millions of workers jobless.

Other labour leaders said that at a time when all opposition parties were miserably failed to protect the people’s rights, it had become imperative for the working people and the conscious section of society to wage a full-fledged struggle against the incompetent government that worked for the IMF and powerful mafias.

They demanded that the increase in petroleum prices should be withdrawn and the mafia involved in this crime should be brought to justice, the salaries and pensions of the workers should be increased in proportion to the inflation, all fired workers, including Steel Mills workers, should be reinstated, and the decision to privatise 43 public institutions should be withdrawn.

The K- Electric had failed to provide an uninterrupted power supply to the people and its control should be handed over to the city or the provincial government with immediate effect, they said.

They also demanded that water projects for Karachi should be completed immediately, all hydrants should be shut down, and citizens should be freed from the clutches of the water tanker mafia.

Together with other countries, Pakistan should refuse to repay all foreign debts and the amount should be spent on the people’s welfare schemes, they said. They also demanded providing social protection for all citizens under the Universal Social Security System.