The impending war and the plight of the Pakistani working class

As the war starts in Afghanistan we publish this report from the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign dealing with the situation of the trade unions in Pakistan. The PTUDC is campaigning for workers' rights and both against Islamic fundamentalism and US imperialism. The statement is signed by 35 leading trade union activists from all over the country and contains an appeal for help and solidarity. The In Defence of Marxism web site endorses this appeal and asks all its supporters to make a financial donation

Solidarity Appeal from the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign

As the war rages on and imperialist aggression further devastates Afghanistan, Pakistan is engulfed by a new wave of uncertainty, turmoil and confusion. The initial out bursts of protest demonstrations against the bombing on Afghanistan in the streets of Karachi Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar and some other cities seem to be at the moment dominated by the fundamentalists. But once the movement gains momentum and expands to larger sections of the society all this will change. Meanwhile this outbreak of war and the accompanying hysteria will be used by the ruling classes of Pakistan to further intensify their attacks on the social and economic conditions of the workers, peasants and the downtrodden of this country. But it seems that the days of the Musharaf regime itself are numbered. But it will all be a very bloody conflagration. Very contradictory processes will take place with chaos and even civil war cannot be ruled out. However, a possibility which should not be ruled out is that of a workers upsurge with revolutionary character.

The present Military dictatorship during its last 2 years in office has carried out vicious attacks on the conditions of the workers in Pakistan. On the behest of the IMF, World Bank and other imperialist institutions massive redundancies have been carried out. The real wages have declined, working hours have increased and conditions of work have worsened. The price hike of petroleum products, electricity, gas, water and other basic utilities has added insult upon injury to an already impoverished working class.

These attacks by the present military dictatorship were carried out also because of a severe political indifference prevailing in society. This lull and despair was the direct result of the betrayal of “democratic regimes” and the populist leaders who had been voted into power by the people of Pakistan, and in which the people had high hopes. The dashing of these hopes on one hand brought enormous resentment towards “politics. This was specially the case with Benazir Bhutto’s leadership, who was brought into power by the oppressed but sided with the ruling classes, the state apparatus and imperialism. This led to demoralization in the ranks of the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) but also disillusionment amongst the working classes in society as a whole. The collapse of the left and their degeneration into Non-Governmental Organisations (mainly sponsored by imperialist institutions and regimes) has been another set back to the workers movement. These NGO’s have been used to deviate the working class from revolutionary causes and indoctrinate them with reformist ideas to make them accept capitalism and all that it brings with it. Hence all the donors of these NGO’s have a clear vested interest in the money they pour into the coffers of the NGO bosses. This disease has specially affected the trade unions. A large number of trade union leaders have been bought off with lucrative offers from the NGOs. This led to their further corruption and compromises with the system which in its epoch of imperialist decay has to increasingly suck the blood and tears of the workers for its survival. The betrayal of these “liberal” trade union leaders on the question of downsizing, privatization and other anti working class issues has further accentuated the plight of workers and trade union activists.

The intrusion of Islamic fundamentalism in the trade union movement has also aggravated the misery of the workers. On one hand they have used the reformist policies of the former left trade union leaders, to push the unions onto adventurous acts. These lead to the destruction of several trade unions. At the same time they have increased physical violence, vandalism and blackmail in the trade unions. Several honest and genuine trade union leaders, like comrade Arif Shah were assassinated during the 1990’s. The fundamentalist controlled trade unions are despotic and a curse for the workers of these factories and institutions. The situation of the trade unions in Pakistan is so bad that only 2.5% to 3% of the work force is organized in the unions. The overall social conditions have further deteriorated in the last period. Poverty, unemployment and misery stalk the land. At the beginning of the 1990’s 22% of the population was under the absolute poverty line. Now the figure is more than 40%. This fact is enough to expose the utter failure of the policies of reformism and the “individualistic” approach of the NGOs towards poverty alleviation. The NGOs spread rapidly during the 90s and some NGOs masquerade as political parties. This is the worst form of treachery and deceit against the working class. The growth rate in economy is lower than rate of population growth of about 2.6%. Health education and other fundamental rights have become a privilege for a very small section of society. Deprivation and want are rising rapidly. There is mass unemployment and further plans to cut about 900,000 jobs during this fiscal year ending June 2002 will bring devastation upon the working class families and youth. With the world capitalist recession looming over the horizon, there is no chance of improvement of the terrible conditions that exist in Pakistan. In fact they will worsen.

The regime will use this war hysteria to further implement the anti people policies that are necessary for the continuation of the capitalist system. But the effects of the war on the mood of the population cannot last forever. Sooner than later they will have to end. As the bodies start coming back from the front and the price of war has to be paid in form of further attacks on workers’ conditions, the mood will change radically. Working people will rise with a vengeance. At this juncture the most important historical task would be to provide this movement with a clear programme and perspective, a dedicated, honest and bold leadership and to save the workers struggle from the evils of opportunism and adventurism.

This is the main task to which the PTUDC has dedicated itself. The brief background in this appeal is mainly to give our comrades in Europe and elsewhere an idea of the conditions in which the PTUDC is working at the moment.

Apart from the long term plans and perspectives of the PTUDC, we are intervening in the day-to-day struggle of the workers. We have brought out posters, organized rallies and demonstrations against privatization, downsizing, restructuring, lay offs and other problems faced by the workers. There is a whole history of 6years of a continued and relentless struggle of the PTUDC against the attacks of the bosses, the repressive state apparatus and its imperialist bakers.

Now with the dark clouds of devastation and war looming large, the PTUDC has embarked upon a new campaign against war and fundamentalist terror. The PTUDC believes that the working class, when it moves is the only real force that can eliminate the menace of Islamic fundamentalism and defeat imperialist aggression.

Pakistan, unlike Afghanistan has a relatively large economy, industry, infrastructure and working class. Thus, the main source and basis of resistance against Islamic fundamentalism and its barbaric methods and aims is the working class. Its victory will only be assured when it overthrows the rotten capitalist system and frees itself from the yoke of imperialist exploitation.

The PTUDC campaign against war and terrorism is mainly to prepare, unite and organize the workers to defend their rights and defeat further attacks on their conditions, which the regime will perpetrate in the guise of “national interest”, “defense of the country” and “sovereignty of Pakistan”.

The campaign is also aimed at defying the propaganda of the bosses, explain the real nature of the war and expose the fact the Islamic fundamentalism and American imperialism are the two sides of the same coin-the preservation of capitalist exploitation and misery.

The PTUDC has produced poster, with the main slogan: 

Fanatic Terrorism And Imperialist Aggression CAN ONLY BE DECISIVELY DEFEATED THROUGH A CLASS WAR.

This poster is being fly-posted in 27 towns and cities across Pakistan. Public meetings and rallies by the PTUDC, have been organized on the following dates:

  • 1. Lahore Wednesday 10th October. 
  • 2. Muzafferabad (Kashmir) Sunday 14th October.
  • 3. Karachi Sunday 14th October. 
  • 4. Quetta Sunday 14th October. 
  • 5. Khuzdar (Baluchistan) Sunday 14th October. 
  • 6. Multan Sunday 14th October. 
  • 7. Rawalpindi\Islamabad Friday 19th October. 
  • 8. Sadiqabad Friday 19th October. 
  • 9. Rahimyar Khan Saturday 20th October. 
  • 10. Mirpur Mathelo Sunday 21st October 
  • 11. Hyderabad Sunday 21st October. 
  • 12. Jampur Sunday 21st October. 
  • 13. Peshawar Sunday 21st October. 
  • 14. Faisalabad Sunday 28th October. 
  • 15. Taxila Wah Sunday 28th October. 
  • 16. Kalat (Baluchistan) Sunday 28th October. 
  • 17. Jand Sunday 28th October. 
  • 18. Kasur Sunday 28th October.

Already three successful public meetings have been held on 26ht, 29th and 30th September in Hyderabad, Thatta and Karachi Steel Mills.

These rallies are being held under the topic “Fundamentalist terror, Imperialist aggression and the role and struggle of the working class”. These rallies will be attended by thousands of workers trade unionists, women, youth and students. There will be workers from all nationalities, religions, races and ethnic groups that reside in Pakistan. Some of the leading trade unionists, political activists, journalists and youth leaders would speak in these rallies. This is a country-wide determined effort to develop the consciousness and strengthen the working class so that it can rise and play a leading independent role to transform society-to end all wars and overthrow capitalism-a horror without an end.

In these daunting times the PTUDC appeals to the trade unionists, political activists and workers in general to come forward with solidarity to this campaign. We appeal to our comrades in Europe and around world to support us, in what ever may they can, when we are under so many kinds of attacks in this real war which is the class war. We believe in the motto that, “An injury to one is an injury to all”. Let us prove to the fundamentalists, the imperialists, the bosses, the dictators, the civilian and military rulers, the capitalists and the oppressors that when the workers unite and move forward as a class then no force on earth can stop them. The victory of the working classes is the only guarantee to end the brutalities of fundamentalism and the atrocities of imperialism. We have to prove to the world that the workers of all lands can and will unite and emancipate the human race.

We have nothing to loose but our chains… We have a whole world to win.


  • 1. Amin Bhatti, Heavy Engineering Workers Union and Chairperson PTUDC (Punjab) 
  • 2. Zafar Ejaz Malik, Railway workers Union and Gen. Secy. PTUDC (Punjab) 
  • 3. Mohammed Irshad, Water and Power workers union and organizer PTUDC (Rawalpindi) 
  • 4. Mohammed Rafique, Small industries workers union and organizer PTUDC (Peshawar) 
  • 5. Gulfraz Ahmed, Ordinance Workers Union and organizer PTUDC (Taxila Wah) 
  • 6. Azad Qadri, Telecommunications Workers Union and organizer PTUDC (Islamabad) 
  • 7. Javed Malik, Journalists Union and Organizer PTUDC (Kasur) 
  • 8. Asad Pataffi, Agricultural workers Union and Organizer PTUDC (Multan) 
  • 9. Azam Khan, Peasant Union and Organizer PTUDC (Jampur) 
  • 10. Ali Akber, Telecommunications Union and organizer PTUDC (Rahim Yar Khan) 
  • 11. Imtiaz Ahmed, Water and Power Workers Union and Organizer PTUDC (Sadiqabad) 
  • 12. Sarwar Abbasi, Fertilizer Workers Union and organizer PTUDC Northern Sindh (Ghotki) 
  • 13. Anwar Panwar, Water supply and Sanitation Workers Union and organizer PTUDC (Sindh) 
  • 14. Ghulam Rasool, Memon Transport Workers Union and organizer PTUDC (Hyderabad) 
  • 15. Anwar Uqaili, Cement Workers Union and organizer PTUDC (Thatta) 
  • 16. Pershotam Ram, Paramedical Workers Union and organizer PTUDC (Badin) 
  • 17. Mohammed Khan, Ahmadani Chairman PTUDC (Sindh) 
  • 18. Faqir Mohammed, Himayati Steel Mills Workers Union and organizer PTUDC (Karachi) 
  • 19. Nazar Mengal, President Postal Workers Union Baluchistan and chairman PTUDC (Baluchistan) 
  • 20. Ali Ahmed, Postal Workers Union and organizer PTUDC (Khuzdar) 
  • 21. Waheed Baluch, Paramedical Workers Union and organizer PTUDC (Kalat) 
  • 22. Hameed Khan, Secretary Civil Servant Workers Union and organizer PTUDC (Quetta) 
  • 23. Fazal Abbas Shah, Railway Mail Service Employees Union. Organizer PTUDC (Lahore) 
  • 24. Lala Mohammed Hanif, Central Secretary General TeleCommunication Union. Member national organizing committee PTUDC 
  • 25. Mohammed Arshad, National finance secretary Postal Workers Union (Nope) Member Punjab committee PTUDC 
  • 26. Rana Abad Amhed, Press secretary Postal Workers Union (Nope) member Punjab committee PTUDC 
  • 27. Saeed Inqalabi, Railway Workers Union Lahore. 
  • 28. Khadam Hussain Hajiyano, Para Medical Union Sindh and member Sindh committee PTUDC 
  • 29. Naseer Balouch, Telecommunication Workers Union Baluchistan and member Baluchistan committee PTUDC. 
  • 30. Iqbal Shad, Railway Mehnat Kash Union Multan and member Punjab Committee PTUDC 
  • 31. Maqbol Ahmed, Port Workers Union Karachi member Karachi committee PTUDC 
  • 32. Ayub Qurashi, Karachi Municipal Workers Union and member Sindh committee PTUDC 
  • 33. Ayaz Hakro, Port Qasim Workers Union Karachi and member Sindh committee PTUDC 
  • 34. Khaliq Ansari, Karachi port Workers Union and member Karachi committee PTUDC 
  • 35. Pir Mohammed, Sindhi Power Generation Workers Union Sindh and member Hyderabad committee, PTUDC