For all General Musharraf appears to be doing, he is really just behaving like a “good solider” and following the orders that come directly from Washington. Surviving three assassination attempts, sticking to his Army House in Rawalpindi, he sees through his fortified house and whispers to his aides “everything is fine”. But at the same moment a bomb blast erupts or the news channel hurls the news that “50 men have been killed in sectarian violence in Multan or Karachi”. So much for the “everything is fine”.
Musharraf is institutionalizing “democracy” under the control of the army and extending the dictatorship over the workers of Pakistan. Dictatorship always represents the dictatorship of finance capital in any part of world. It always generates repression, muting the voices of the people, especially the voice of workers and trade unionists. But in overstretching the repression, dictatorship itself always brings about the winds of change.
Pakistan has never been worker-friendly, as we all know. Since the creation of Pakistan there have been 19 governments, 17 of which were dictatorships solely governed by the holy “Pak Army”. This shows the spectrum of politics in Pakistan. So-called civil society has never existed in this poor country.
The present dictatorship of General Musharraf inflicted a Black Law, the IRO 2002 (Industrial Relationship Ordinance), on October 26, 2002 surpassing the legacy of his predecessors’ iron rule. Through this law the bosses received the ultimate authority to fire workers any time they wanted, to strip the right of unionization in key industries, to avoid life-time job offers and to switch to casual and daily labourers or contract job offerings, as well as downsizing and so on, there is no limit at all. The real face of the dictatorship is ever exposed as the President insists on keeping his “General Uniform”. This means further maneuvering within state structures. For example he has fired his introductory Prime Minister Zaffar-ul-allah Jamali, and now his top fellows in the Pakistan Army, taking yet another U-turn on the “Kashmir Doctrine”, confusing and messing with moderates, fundamentalists and the Army alike. The class nature of the ruling elite means that they welcome the idea of not shedding their uniforms. But the misery and chaos of daily lifer are ruining the mass majority of workers, poor, and peasants by barring them access to basic health, education, transportation, communications and safe drinking water. History shows that rulers have always followed the policy of intensifying exploitation, repression and misery. They never learn from it and have always provided excuses, allowing the process to repeat itself on a higher plain. It is an ultimate truth which can be tested by any science.
Whatever the ruling clique is doing to fortify its rule will be faced with the rebellion of millions people defying their rules, their state and military machines. The people will spread their authority in the streets and fields and ultimately take the power and their destiny into their own hands.
There were tremors of such a rebellion this year on “Black Day”, October 26, which was organized by the PTUDC, YFIS and the People’s Labour Bureau (PLB), in collaboration with major trade unions throughout Pakistan. Over 50 rallies were organized in 22 cities with the overwhelming, enthusiastic participation of some 6000 people. Solidarity and support was reassured to Comrade Manzoor Ahmed (Member of Parliament and President of the PTUDC), who has been battling in Parliament by introducing an amendment to eradicate the IRO 2002. He is waiting his turn in the National Assembly to initiate a general debate and get his Bill tabled and passed. So far the Parliamentary Affairs Committee has denied him this and is presenting lame excuses, but as a veteran in politics he is not giving up.
Comrade Manzoor anticipated this attitude and these tactics long before moving his bill and as President of the PTUDC he has traveled to every corner of the country as well as across South Asia where he is constantly debating trade union leaders and activists, wining support all around. The local and international bureaus of the PTUDC on their part are working side by side with their President to gather support by day and night.
We present the following brief summaries of the events on the observation of “Black Day” on October 26, 2004 gathered by our National Bureau in Lahore from various cities as well as press coverage by different newspapers which was reported in different national and regional languages.
A public meeting was organized by the IRO 2004 Amendment Action Committee at the Rawalpindi Press Club. The meeting was chaired by Zaffar Ullah Niazi, President of the All Pakistan Workers Confederation. The chief guests were President of the PTUDC Comrade Manzoor Ahmed (MP), and Iqbal Memon (MP).
The speakers highlighted the situation facing workers after the introduction of the IRO 2002. They stressed that hundreds of workers have been laid off as a result of this controversial ordinance and that trade union leaders are also being constantly harassed by state machinery and management. The rulers of this country are sparing no time to pursue the policies of downsizing and privatization, as well as the selling off of vital and profitable industries to foreign multinationals for nothing. This black law is like a naked sword to the workers. The speakers were of the view that by blocking the Amendment Bill in Parliament, the ruling elite revealed its anti-worker attitude.
A resolution was passed by the participants demanding the swift recognition of the amendments to the IRO 2002 moved by Comrade Manzoor Ahmad and his co-movers, warning that if this is not done they will carry their agitation to the factories and the streets defying all laws and rules. They showed unconditional support for the struggle of Comrade Manzoor and his co-movers. The mood amongst the workers and activists was sentimental and agitational.
Following the public meeting a rally was held at the renowned Murree Road. The slogans were shouted louder than ever. The rally lasted two hours and many people were carrying large banners and placards.
The noteable participants in the rally and meetings were Muhammad Akram of the Pakistan Television Employees Union, Ali Murdan of the Attock Oil Refinery Workers Union, Nazar Hussain Shah of the Murree Brewery Workers Unions, Malik Fateh Khan of the WAPDA Hydro workers union, K.K Aman Ullah and Naeem Kayani of the Capital Development Authority Union, Shokat Satti of the PTCL, Kadsa Murteza of the People’s Labour Bureau, Sajad of KTM and Irshad and Yunis Khan of the PTUDC.
“Workers are being stabbed in the back by IRO 2002, by unnecessary lay-offs and downsizing and they have also been stripped of the right of protest at same time by very same black law. This double misery can only be laid to rest by the workers of Pakistan, regardless of their institutions, sect, nationality and language because this black law is haunting every worker all over the country. This black law should be removed immediately. There is need of national and international unity against this ridiculous law. The movement of workers against this ordinance is the writing on the wall. The PTUDC has taken a bold step forward uniting workers today by observing today as Black Day. No one has stepped forward but the PTUDC is following the steps of its founding member, the late Arif Shah yet again. The rulers understand only one language, and that is the voices of united workers and the rhythm of agitation. Today it is evident that rallies across the country are the very beginning of agitation. “Move forward and throw the dictatorship out!” These were the words of Shahida Jabeen (PTUDC) and Abdul Kadar Shaheen (President of the People’s Labour Bureau) while they were addressing the rally outside the Lahore Press Club.
The anti-IRO Committee, the PTUDC, and the PLB organized this rally in support of the struggle of Comrade Manzoor and his co-movers. The participants chanted slogans against the policies of the Musharraf regime, anti-worker laws and American imperialism.
Later in the night the poplar GEO TV aired a special report on the IRO 2002 and the rally in Lahore. Over 500 attended the rally and the mood was moving and strong in rhythm. Amongst the participants were Safdar Shindu, Organizer of the Anti-IRO 2002 Action Committee, Latif Sabir of the Pakistan Trade Union Federation, Ayaz Shidu and Ejaz Yusaf and Yunis Khan of the Pakistan Works Department, Ghulam Dustiger of Ravi Ryan Ltd, Zafar Hadi of the National Bank Union, Qamar Din of PFJU, Fazal Wahid of the Railway Workers Union, Merza Sadique Baig, Hafeez, Qadir Khan and Farahat Ali of the Railway Mahnatkash Union, Malik Ehtisham of the Muslim Commercial Bank Union CBA, Ezaj of People’s Unity (PIA), Abdul Ghani of the Rustam –o-Sahrab Motorcycle Factory Union, Yusaf Zahoor and Sabnam Perviz of the People’s Labour Bureau, Rana Ebad of the NOP (Pakistan Post), Advocate Aamir Butt of the BNT and Fahat Butt of YFIS.
Shouting and huge banners got the attention of passersby at a rally organized by young PTUDC members with the collaboration of veterans of the People’s Labour Bureau on October 26. The participants were shouting slogans against the IRO 2002, the military regime, and for workers’ unity. They chanted “no to privatization”, “no to contract labour”, “no to sacking”. At the end the rally turned into a public meeting where leading trade union leaders spoke. They presented gratitude to the movers of the Amendment Bill and showed their solidarity and support to the PTUDC. The participants were Khan Bahdar of the Tonga Union, Kaswar Razi and Akthar Shah of the People’s Labour Bureau, Rasid Bhatti and Rana Shahid of People’s Unity (PIA), and Enam, Nadeem Pasha, Jabbar, and Sharrif of the PTUDC, Wali Rajput of the Mutan Development Authority Workers’ Union, Eshak of the Sui Northern Gas Pipe Lines Union, Mujahid Pasha of the WASA Union, and Tariq Jeelani of the PTCL.
Later in the evening all the leading trade union leaders addressed a press conference at the PTUDC office denouncing the current policies of the regime. They were of the view that the forces of the multinational cartels are imposing wars in different parts of the world to extract and exploit their resources and they are grabbing the state assets of developing countries in the name of privatization. All these conflicting policies are making the lives of millions of workers miserable and unbearable. By observing today as Black Day in Pakistan the workers of Pakistan are preparing the front lines for the show down. Today we blow the beagle of war against the tyrannical policies of the military junta. We are joining the struggle for the ultimate victory. The next morning these views were shared in different newspapers.
The response was no different in Sadikabad, where a unified seminar was organized by the PTUDC, the People’s Labour Bureau, and the People’s Student Federation. Overwhelming numbers of workers, students, newsmen, and lawyers turned out to attend this seminar.
Qamar Sultan, performing his duty as stage secretary, briefed the participants about the struggle of the PTUDC in recent years. Qamar Uz Zaman of the PTUDC, in appreciation of the young audience, made a point referring to the 1968-69 struggle that saw the unity of youth, students and workers bring the Ayub dictatorship down to its knees. That class unity turned the capitalist state upside down and showed the workers the pure essence of revolution. A similar situation is now on the horizon. The only thing lacking is the political and class will of the trade union leadership. The workers of Pakistan are living dangerously in volatile and uncertain conditions. They can make their own destiny if they move forward and when they move forward they will not halt by any means until they have finished the unfinished agenda of 1968-69.
While addressing the seminar Hyder Chugttaie of the PTUDC said Comrade Manzoor and his fellow parliamentarians have waged their struggle in the echelons of the rulers, the need of the day is to echo this struggle in every factory and every institution. The PTUDC with the support of all trade unions concerned are gathering the political momentum for all the workers in Pakistan to eradicate all the anti-worker policies.
Karachi, as the largest industrial city in Pakistan, showed no mercy on October 26. Workers observed Black Day in the industrial area by wearing black armbands. In the afternoon a rally was held in the centre of the city at the Karachi Press Club. This was organized by the PTUDC and the People’s Labour Bureau. Some workers traveled 70 kilometers to the metropolis to attend the rally.
This was a really well organized and fabulous rally in front of the Karachi Press Club. Red and Black banners with revolutionary slogans condemning the IRO 2002 were on the scene. Over 700 people turned out in this busy city to register their protest and to support the struggle of fellow comrades in Parliament. Anticipating the mood of militant trade unions in Karachi, especially that of the veterans of the People’s Labour Bureau, the Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto conveyed her message of solidarity to the Divisional People’s Labour Bureau office bearer and well known name in the labour movement, Sheik Majeed. Sheik Majeed with his authority set the mood by reciting the message of solidarity in front of the rally. In her message Benazir Bhutto condemned the IRO 2002 and pledged her support to workers, and stressed her support to the PPP parliamentarians and the Amendment Bill moved by Comrade Manzoor Ahmed. She also presented her salute to the extraordinary struggle of the People’s Labour Bureau. This clearly shows that the People’s Party leadership is prone to the struggle of real, committed workers. This event in the future will cause the mindset of the party leadership to lean to the left.
Ahmed Khan Ahmadani (PTUDC) speaking at the rally presented the charge sheet against the Military Junta as well as a long list of atrocities inflicted upon the workers of Pakistan during last 57 years.
He made the point that even if the opposition wanted to agitate against the Uniform Issue the reality on the ground is that the masses are drowning in the quagmire of unemployment, price hikes, and poverty and the rest of those who have escaped this tyranny are still vulnerable to the harsh policies of the present regime. The masses will not simply respond to the calls of opposition, what is needed is that we unite the workers, and political activists to a platform of struggle against this brutal capitalist system that can eradicate all miseries and tyranny.
Notables in the rally were Rashid Rabani of the PLB, Shah Muhammad of the People’s Study Circle, Engineer Rafique (MP PPP), Waqar Mehdi, Raheel Iqbal, Haji Muzaffar Shujra, Khalil Qureshi of the PPP Karachi Division, Kamran Chudary, M.Rafique, Ghafoor Baloch, Manzoor Razi, Ali Mirza, Syed Ghani, Latif Mogul, Mazoor Badauni, Liaqat, Aslam Sammu, Ali Hyder, Sohil Abidi, Emroz Khan, Khalid Juneed, Tariq Watanyar, and Nasir ud Din.
Quetta also played a role in denouncing October 26 as Black Day. The PTUDC poster was well pasted on walls at every busy street in the city.
The rally was jointly organized by the PTUDC and the PLB. Various trade unions participated to register their protest at the Quetta Press Club. The participants shouted loud slogans against the IRO 2002, and against the Mullah Military Alliance (MMA).
Speaking to the rally, the Provincial Secretary of the PTCL Employees Sajjad Sajjid detailed the consequences for workers after the introduction of IRO 2002. The Provincial President of the Balochistan Teachers’ Union emphasized the unity of teachers and workers in pursuing the struggle of teachers into a new phase of agitation. He condemned the IRO 2002 as a basic violation of human rights. He also explained that the new pay scale was controversial and insane, rejecting it outright. Notables in the rally were Abdul Ghafar Khan of the Agricultural Department, Sultan Mazdour of the PHE, Abdullah of the Workers Inqalaabi Union, Nasreen Taj of the Teachers’ Union, Ali Reza Mongol and Nazar Mangal of the PTUDC, and Nasir Baloch of the NOP (Pakistan Post ).
Malik M. Immetiaz, the President of the PLB Blochistan appreciated the pledge
made by Comrade Manzoor to fight the IRO 2002 in Parliament. He described
Comrade Manzoor as a man of words and honesty, in reference to his earlier
meeting with him. All participants reassured their commitment to broaden this
campaign to all basic levels of workers.
Black Day was also observed in Khuzdar, Sibi, Zoab, Qila Saifullah, Dera Murad Jamali, Dera Allah Yar, and Osta Muhammad in Balochistan, Hyderabad, Khairpur, Dadu and Badin in Sindh, Kasur, Khanewal and , Jhang, and KotAdu in Punjab with pledge to fight till the final victory.
Hina Zain (YFIS) in Lahore
Also reported by:
Saqlain Shah (Asian Marxist Review) in Lahore
Anam (YFIS) in Multan
Irshad (PTUDC) in Rawalpindi
Ali Mardan (PTUDC) in Quetta
Imran (PTUDC) in Karachi
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