I urge trade union organisations, members and activists around the world to support the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign.
The Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign was set up following the assassination of Arif Shah, the President of the Punjab Labour Federation by hired agents of the employers in 1995. That brutal act highlighted the harsh situation faced by the trade union movement in Pakistan.
The conditions of the workers in Pakistan are miserable. There are millions of unemployed and there is no unemployment benefit or welfare state. Brutal exploitation is rife. Over one million children work in the carpet industry, another million are employed as domestics, over 300,000 as bonded labourers in brick kilns together with many more in soap factories, small garages, shops etc.
As a result of the assassination of Arif Shah, leading trade union activists established the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign, sponsored by the Punjab Labour Federation, the United Labour Federation, the Progressive Workers Alliance, the Railway Workers Union, the Nation Union of Postal Employees, Manzoor Ahmed [Information Secretary, PPP Labour Bureau (Punjab)], and many others. The aim of the PTUDC is to defend trade unions from the physical attacks of the employers and to defend their right to organise!
Since then the PTUDC has worked to support trade unionists struggles and campaigns in Railways, Telecom, Postal, Banks, Sugar, Steel, Ports and many others.
The most recent campaign they have been involved in is the defence of the leader of the civil servants in Quetta, Hameed Khan. This workers' leader was arrested on April 22, together with other union leaders and protesting workers. This is an extremely serious situation and it is essential that trade unions all over the world protest against this action and bring every pressure to bear on the Pakistani authorities.
I urge all trade union activists to act immediately to protest against the brutal repression of our fellow workers and trade unionists in Pakistan.
National Union of Journalists