We have been informed that, despite the ferocious police repression and the arrest of comrade Hameed Khan, the leader of the strike of the Baluchistan Civil Secretariat Employees Association, which was reported on our web page earlier this week, the strike is continuing. The latest situation is that negotiation is going on. There is no agreement yet. And Hameed Khan and the other leaders are still behind bars.
Today the PTUDC are publishing a 12-page pamphlet on the plight of workers on Pakistan's railways. As soon as it is ready they will send the translation, which we hope will be on the website in a couple of days. In the meantime, this morning we received the following e-mail from Baluchistan:
"The Baluchistan Government has stopped the salary of the workers of the Baluchistan Secretariat to pressurise them to call off the strike and go back to work. This blackmailing from the government side is deliberately timed to coincide with Eid (the celebration after the fasting month of Ramadan, which is similar to Christmas in the West), when every Muslim wants to go shopping and celebrate the Eid days as an artificial happiness for him, their children and other family members. The provincial government is very aggressive in perpetrating this act against workers for going on strike and shows that it wants to break the strike at all costs."
On the other hand, the workers are very confident and happy, saying that they will not call off the strike until they achieve their success. The workers of the entire city are supporting them verbally at the moment. We (the PTUDC) are trying to involve the entire workers of the provincial capital.
(Leading member of PTUDC)
Protests against the arrest of Hameed Khan have taken place all over Pakistan and in many other countries:
This afternoon, between 12.30 and 2.30 pm local time, a picket was held outside the Pakistan High Commission in London, to demand the release of the arrested trade unionists.
The picket caused a flurry of consternation inside the High Commission, with embassy officials running in and out of the building, not knowing what to do.
Having handed in a letter of protest to the High Commission's representatives, the protesters then stood outside the door with placards, until those within came out to complain to the police that we were "standing on the property of the High Commission". Clearly, they were badly rattled.
Complying with the request of the police, we moved the picket a small distance to the opposite side of the road, where our placards could be seen very clearly by all those entering the building as well as passers-by.
At that point, a large number of Pakistanis approached, on their way to attend Friday prayers in the grounds of the High Commission. Many of them accepted copies of the leaflet which we handed out and took them away to read - much to the annoyance of the functionaries within.
One of the latter came out to remonstrate with the protesters, obviously with the intention of provoking us. Suddenly a photographer came out of the embassy and took photos of the picket - a blatant act of harassment - while the others constantly harangued the police officer to get rid of us.
Evidently these little Musharrafs had never heard of the right of assembly or of freedom of expression, and the police officer had to explain that they were not actually in Pakistan and that, consequently, he was unable to either disperse or detain us.
Having made our point to considerable effect, we went away well contented, with a solemn promise to return to the scene in even greater numbers if the imprisoned trade unionists were not released.
(Report by Rob Sewell)
The comrades moved quite quickly on the question of the arrests. They phoned the Pakistani Embassy, but were told that a phone call was no good and they needed a fax. So the comrades sent a protest letter signed by comrades with important positions in the labour movement. Then they got the following organisations to sent protest letters:
1) GSEE (the Greek TUC). This is the highest body in the Greek Trade Union Movement.
2) Athens Trades Union Council.
3) Congress of the National Union of Civil Servants.
The above three organisations are the biggest trade union organisations in Greece, so the Pakistani Embassy will have got a pretty powerful message here. The comrades are now going to approach PASOK MPs they know, and also a journalist who may be able to spread this item of news to many important Greek newspapers.
Mexican supporters of the PTUDC are mobilising an extensive campaign of solidarity. They have approached trade unionists, parliamentarians and leaders of the PRD, and are preparing a picket of the embassy. The following letter of protest has been sent:
To: President of Pakistan
To: Federal Interior Minister
Copy to: Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign
We have received news of the brutal repression on the part of your government against striking workers in Baluchistan.
We have heard of hundreds of striking workers arrested, members of the Civil Secretariat Employees Association (CSEA) regarding the strike they declared on November 19. We are particularly concerned about the arrest and possible torture of Hameed Khan a leading member of this union and leading figure of the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC).
This constitutes an unacceptable attack on the basic trade union rights in your country. The right of workers to go out on strike an organise to defend their rights ought to be guaranteed without limitations in any country of the world, but particularly in one which is part of the so-called Enduring Freedom operation in neighbouring Afghanistan.
We demand the immediate release of Hameed Khan and all other arrested strikers and we also ask your government to put pressure on the Baluchistan government to negotiate with the striking workers without violence or intimidation in order to solve their rightful demands.
We will follow this case closely and we will not cease in our efforts to publicise these attacks on trade union rights amongst trade union, youth and PRD activists in Mexico.
Ubaldo Oropesa, Executive Committee of the Committee to Defend State
Carlos Marquez, Executive Committee of the National Polytechnic Institute Struggle Committee
Leonardo Crespo, Executive Committee of CEDEP National Autonomous University of Chapingo
Rosalba Ramos, Movement of Insurgent Rank and File, Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)
Norma Ramirez, High School Teachers Union, branch Executive Committee
Rubén Rivera, Editorial Board Militante
November 22, 2001
And, last but not least, Pakistan
The key city of Multan in central Punjab, has led the way. A meeting of the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign was held in Multan. 265 workers of various departments and trade unions participated in this emergency meeting. They were all concerned about the shocking news about the arrest of many workers in Quetta, Baluchistan. While they were protesting against the delay of charter of demands, which was committed to be implemented soon by the authorities.
The participants unanimously declared this incident a most brutal attack on the working class in Pakistan by the Pakistan government. They expressed their full support for the victims of the ruling class, and committed themselves that if they are not released immediately, every possible step will be taken and the authorities will be responsible for the results.
In addition, an emergency meeting of the Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) was held in Multan. Mr Ilyas Khan, advocate and ex-president of the Peoples' Youth Organisation of Punjab presided the meeting. The only point on the agenda was to "organise the protest against the arrest of the Civil Secretariat employees union's leaders and workers in Quetta, Baluchistan. There was a great anger among the workers at this inhuman brutality imposed by the government.
The working class is already under attack by the ruling regime, and the time has come to oppose all this, speakers said in the meeting. They demanded the release of all the workers, and the arrest of all who are responsible for all this. Otherwise, demonstrations will be organised on a mass level, and every step will be taken to express solidarity with workers, and also to protest against the brutality of the authorities.
The railway workers of Multan have written the following protest:
We the members of Railway Workers' Union, Multan, are feeling a great unrest when we got the news of the brutal arrest of more than 100 employees of the Civil Secretariat, Quetta, Baluchistan.
1) Immediate release of all activists.
2) Charter of demand must be implemented as it was committed.
3) Those responsible for the brutal actions against protesters must be punished accordingly. If these demands are not fulfilled, we will also share the struggle of our workers oppressed in Quetta. We can go on strike.
Also the Multan students:
The students' action committee BZUNIVERSITY MULTAN, strongly condemns the arrest of more than 100 Civil Secretariat employees, while they were protesting for their genuine demands to implement the charter of demands.
The students' action committee demands to release all immediately otherwise it will take the necessary steps to agitate against this official brutality in Quetta, Baluchistan.
The students' action committee demands to implement Charter of Demands committed by government in July 2001 and take necessary action against those who shared this brutality.
The Struggle Youth Forum, Multan has also protested: The Forum "Is seriously concerned at the news of brutal oppression of authorities against the workers in Quetta and their arrest. It is all inhuman attitude imposed on workers. We demand their immediate release otherwise we will be forced to agitate against it."
Jampur peasants protest
A meeting of "Kisan Kath" was held here at Jampur, Dist, Rajanpur, which more than 400 peasants attended. A resolution was passed unanimously:
"This meeting feels a great unrest on the arrest of workers in Quetta, Baluchistan, when they were on protest for their genuine demands. It is very hard news for all of us, and we all request the Pakistan government to take necessary action to release all the workers arrested in Quetta as soon as possible and also to implement their Charter of Demands. Thanks."
Please send your protest messages to:
President of Pakistan (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Federal Interior Minister (e-mail: email@example.com
Ministry of Interior
The Governor of Baluchistan
Mr. Justice (Retired) Amir Ul Mulk Mengal
Please send copies of all protest and solidarity messages to the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the PTUDC website at www.ptudc.org
Donations to the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign can be made here.