Quetta Civil Secretariat Strike Continues

The strike of public sector workers in Quetta, Baluchistan continues. Here are two articles that appeared in today's Dawn, the leading English language daily newspaper in Pakistan, followed by a short piece about the background to the strike. The PTUDC thanks everyone who has already sent in messages of solidarity and donations.

The strike of public sector workers in Quetta, Baluchistan continues. The number of arrested workers in unclear, but is between 100 and 300. Here we present two reports that appeared in today's Dawn, the leading English language daily newspaper in Pakistan, followed by a short piece on the background to the strike which was written on April 18. We thank everyone who has already sent in messages of solidarity and donations. Please read yesterday's appeal if you have not done so already.

From the Dawn, 23 April 2002

Concern at Balochistan government's attitude

By Our Reporter

LAHORE, April 22: The Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign, an organization committed to the cause of workers, has expressed concern over the Balochistan government's 'tough attitude' towards the demands of the Balochistan Civil Secretariat Staff Association.

A joint statement issued here by PTUDC's central leaders Khalid Bhatti, Muhammad Khan Ahmadani, Nazar Mengal and Amin Bhatti demanded that the arrested leaders of the agitating secretariat workers in Quetta should be released.

They said their demands were quite genuine and that the administration should accept them and stop using force against them. They also demanded that cases instituted against the protesters and their leaders should be withdrawn.

PTUDC leaders also criticized the privatization and workers' retrenchment policies, and said these were detrimental to the larger national interests. Another demand raised by them was the holding of referendum for electing CBAs in various institutions, including the Pakistan Steel, the PTCL and the Pakistan Railways.

QUETTA: 150 government employees arrested

By Our Staff Correspondent

QUETTA, April 22: Police arrested 150 employees of various government departments here on Monday for observing a strike to press the provincial government to give them the utility and special allowance.

At least 13 strikers received minor injuries when police resorted to a baton charge in an attempt to stop the employees from staging a sit-in in front of Science College. The injured were given first aid at a city hospital and discharged. The district administration said 50 employees had been arrested for violating section 144.

Meanwhile, a number of government employees, including teachers, paramedics and officials of the Balochistan Secretariat, held a demonstration in front of the Quetta Press Club, and chanted slogans in favor of their demands and against the government.

Strikers' leaders condemned the government for issuing show-cause notices to them instead of accepting their demands. They announced that they would not compromise their demands and would continue their struggle till the acceptance of their demands. They said the 40 per cent utility and special allowance that they had been demanding had been approved for 25 other districts of the province.

The employees working in other districts had been getting the allowance for more than three years, they said, making it clear that they would not accept less then 40 per cent allowance as the government had offered to some of the employees' associations two weeks ago.

The strike and protests have paralyzed life in the city.

Background to the Strike

In the previous Baluchistan government of Akhter Mengal it was decided to give 40% agency allowance to all district employees of Baluchistan, except in Quetta. Against this act of injustice the trade union launched a movement but due to the political affiliations of trade union leaders with their mother parties it was not able to become effective and it went back. The traditional leadership filed a case in the high court and the decision has not been given yet.

After the victorious movement of Baluchistan Civil Secretariat Staff Association (BCSSA) in October and November 2001 the employees of Quetta became energetic and they pressurised their leadership and asked then to launch a movement for 40% allowance. The movement launched the Baluchistan Labour Federation (BLF) and All Pakistan Clerks Association (APCA). Their movement started two months before with a token strike, and they hoisted black banners in their offices but the acceleration of this movement was a bit slow and only came to its peak when the BCSSA took part.

10 days ago the Government of Baluchistan agreed to give 20% allowance and issued a notification but it was rejected by workers and burnt in workers' meetings. In this set-up the president of the APCA (Baluchistan Wing) Mr Yousaf Kaker, who is a puppet of Baluchistan Government, accepted this 20% offer but it was rejected by workers and due to this he paid the price of treachery and was overthrown by the workers and the majority of members of the APCA who are active in the movement joined APCA (Shaheed Saqi Group).

The leadership of BCSSA were also pressured by their workers and on April 12 the BCSSA supported this movement unconditionally and the movement was accelerated and became very high. BCSSA announced its first workers' meeting on April 13 and announced a second meeting on April 15 with the call of complete strike. On April 15 the Baluchistan Government took charge of the Secretariat and deployed the Anti-Terrorist Force, with armed vehicles and hundreds of police reserve forces, which made the Secretariat look like the streets of Srinagar. The aim of this was to crush the movement of BCSSA. It is worth noting that the Baluchistan Government took completely aggressive steps against BCSSA but this type of action was not taken against other unions. This act of terror by the government did not stop here and at midnight on April 16 the BCSSA president Mr Abdul Khaliq Kakar was arrested, and this was not disclosed by the police. The next day nobody had information about Kaliq Kakar despite contacting all the police stations.

After 18 hours it was disclosed that he was arrested by police and cases were filed against all the Cabinet members of only BCSSA. And he is still in police custody. It should be noted that the Baluchistan Government is of the opinion that by crushing the strength and demoralising the BCSSA that they can easily control all of the movement. This is the reason why they are raiding with police commando forces all the houses of all cabinet members of BCSSA, not the houses of other trade unions and Comrade Hameed Khan has not been sleeping in his home for two or three nights due to these raids.

On the evening of April 16 an action committee was formed, headed by the arrested president of BCSSA Abdul Khaliq Kakar with the participation of the Baluchistan Labour Federation and All Pakistan Paramedical Federation, All Pakistan Clerks Association (Shaheed Saqi group), and called itself the Action Committee for 40% Allowance. The Government Teacher Association is also taking part in this movement.

On April 17 the Action Committee launched a protest meeting in Municipal Corporation Office Quetta in which hundreds of workers took part. Comrade Hameed Khan paved the way completely on the basis of class conflict and class interest and almost all the other speakers followed him. After this meeting the Action Committee had a press conference and there it was disclosed that the Baluchistan Government negotiated with the Committee, and the government representative, the Provincial Chief Secretary, clearly said that this allowance would not be given to the BCSSA and told the Action Committee to do its business and the government will do its business.

From this day the BCSSA announced a full strike of its office, and the other trade unions did the same in their offices. Previously they were limited only to token strike and hunger strike. The Pakistan Paramedical Staff Association is on token strike due to the hardship of the common people.

Today once again a protest meeting was held in Municipal Corporation office (hundreds of workers took part and their morale was very high, and this type of protest meeting is also being held in other offices) where it was announced by the Action Committee that from tomorrow their strike will not be limited to the boundaries of their offices and departments, and they will come out on to the roads and in public places and they will surround the Governor House and the employees of Municipal Corporation will not clear the garbage from city and the water workers will cut off the water supply system.

The movement has reached a decisive stage from which there is no return.

Abid Hussain,
Information Secretary,
PTUDC Quetta

April 18, 2002