Pakistan: Shahdadkot Textile Mills workers militant protest against privatisation

The workers at the Shahdadkot Textile Mills have been struggling against the privatisation and subsequent closure of the plant. During the elections the PPP candidates promised action once elected but none has been forthcoming. The only solution is nationalisation.

The "Shahdadkot Textile Mills" has been the biggest industrial complex, employing about 6000 workers in this whole region of Upper Sindh. This Textile plant was established in 1974 under the instructions of Zulfiqar ali Bhutto, then Prime Minister and leader of the PPP. After its completion, the plant started up production around 1981. It was a complete industrial plant of its times, comprising spinning, weaving, dying and all required processes for textile production. The textile products of this mill were of export quality.

Now, the Mills have been completely privatized and closed. The Musharraf regime sold it to a local petit bourgeois, Nisar Memon, who is a raw material & scrap trader in Karachi.

The workers of this textile plant are now in protest, struggling against its privatization and closure. The United Spinning Mills Union along with some other trade unions around this town are agitating and protesting. The comrades of the PTUDC are actively intervening in this movement.


Shahdadkot is a relatively backward town and the headquarters of the Qambar-Shahdadkot district are located on the border of the Sindh and Balochistan Provinces. Several other small towns and villages in the area are economically dependant on Shahdadkot. The livelihood of people around this region is mainly based on agriculture and trade. Only the "Shahdadkot Textile Mills" were of such size that they employed 6000 workers here. After seizure and closure of the plant all the workers were expelled and kicked out of the Mills.

A lot of families of the expelled workers are now suffering and going hungry in these times of record inflation levels. Not only the expelled workers, but also all those people who had opened their shops around this Mills are suffering and also those who had opened their small businesses around this plant, which thrived on the small transactions with the Mills and its workers.

How the plant was privatised?

In latter years of the Zia dictatorship the process of privatisation of the Mills was slowly initiated. They were broken up and sold in parts. Its heavy machinery, which had been a gift to the workers of this region by the former Soviet Union, was allowed to go into disrepair by the Mills administration and then was shifted to Karachi as scrap and of no use. Under the so-called "democratic regimes" of the PPP and N-League this privatisation process continued.

During the Musharraf Regime, the Mills were handed over to the PIDC. The PIDC then (as we have explained) sold the whole plant to a scrap trader in Karachi, Nisar Ahmed Memon. This individual thus managed to get a hold of the whole plant thanks to huge bribes which he gave to the state bureaucracy. Formally, it had been agreed that Nisar Memon would run the plant but after a short span of time he seized the Mills and took its imported heavy machinery to Karachi and sold it off as scrap.

The PIDC legalized this plunder through the Sindh High Court which issued the order of "Transparent Privatization". When the workers at the Mills agitated and protested, Nisar Memon threatened the workers and even tried to kill some of them. He did all this with help of his goons.

A local goon Abdul Fatah Bhatti, funded by Nisar Memon, was fully authorized to operate in the Mills. Fatah Bhatti expelled even the few remaining workers from the Mills and put up a notice of closure of the Mills on July 8, 2007. From then on the Mills have been closed and the workers have been going hungry.

Plunder and fraudulent privatisation

It is the fate of the workers to suffer such plundered and looting at the hands of the bosses. It is not news now that the workers are always tricked and looted with the help of a corrupt bureaucracy and the administration of industries.

This plant also had residential quarters for the workers (the Mill Workers Colony). When the Mills were being privatised, the Army and Rangers took over the residential quarters of the workers and kicked out all the workers from their homes. Since then no worker has been allowed to live at the Mill Workers Colony.

Also, Abdul Fatah Bhatti, a scoundrel at the services of Nisar Memon, filled his pockets with the employees' fund of the mill workers. An amount of about one million rupees was never given to the workers, although it had been earned by the workers with their day and night labour. This amount of one million rupees which was kept in the Habib Bank Shahdadkot Branch (account number 007900089891), was all grabbed by Abdul Fatah Bhatti. Furthermore, when the workers demanded their employees' fund, they were harassed, abused and told to withdraw, otherwise they could be killed!

The Shahdadkot Textile Mills were actually worth billions of rupees. But they were sold for 80 million rupees. The Mill Workers Colony and some other buildings alone are worth 90 million rupees. But the state and its corrupt rulers always safeguard the interests of the capitalists, from which they get huge commissions. The United Spinning Mills Union has explained that, "All other units of the Mills, along with its heavy infrastructure, are actually worth 500 million rupees".

Now that all this has been done, what remains? Only 550 (of the original 6000) workers were still employed in 2007 when the Mills were closed. The workers could not get their wages for months, not to speak of other payments such as incentives and bonuses.

Why were he Mills Privatised?

Under the Zia dictatorship, Shahdadkot town was marked out due to its militant and leftist traditions. These same Textile Mills were a traditional base of trade unionism and leftist activism. Comrade Jam Saqi (the former General Secretary of the Pakistan Communist Party, and who spent several years in Zia's jails) once told us that during the Zia regime, when they found no shelter to hide in, the Shahdadkot Textile Mills were the solution. The Mill Workers Colony had been a hide-out for all progressive politicians who battled the Zia regime.

The trade union politics of this town and especially of the Textile Mills provided a lead for all other towns. It became a tradition of the workers of this region. All workers of other industries also have their trade unions and this became a norm here. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin wall, May Day here was celebrated with extreme solidarity in all those years of depression.

Later, after the Zia dictatorship was burned to ashes in the air (when Zia's plane crashed), elections were held in1988. In this town, the trade unions and workers nominated their candidate in polls against the feudal lords of this constituency. The workers battled to win and although they lost the elections, the feudal lords, the state and bourgeoisie felt a growing threat to their power. It was the organized workers' election campaign which put Nadir Magsi (now a PPP Minister in the Sindh government) in hot waters. A movement was growing.

Then some Army captains and state agencies came up with a plan to privatise the Mills. They worked out the plan for the closure of Mills. It was to be a slow and steady privatisation of the Mills, piece by piece, ending up finally with complete closure. Thus, the aim was to end militant politics and class struggle in this town and its industries, destabilize class struggle in this whole region and defend the position of their dummy and minion feudal lords. This is the background to why this huge industrial unit was sold off as scrap.

Now what?

The United Spinning Mills Union of this Textile Mills (all other unions vanished due to the closure of dying, weaving and other departments of the Mills) is now on the road. Along with other trade unions of the town, the PTUDC is also in solidarity with the workers of the Mills. The PPP candidates had promised the workers that they would get the Mills running again when they were seeking votes for the February 18 polls, but since then nobody has shown up to talk to the workers.

The PTUDC is of the view that the economic policies of this government are the same as the previous government. Thus, the Mills will not be opened easily, adding to the anger of the workers. The leaders of the main parties, whichever they may belong to, always safeguard the interests of the local and international bourgeoisie. That is why, there is no way forward without class struggle. Workers of all other industries (e.g. the Rice Mills) should come out in solidarity with the Textile Mills Workers.

The PTUDC demands the immediate nationalisation of the Shahdadkot Textile Mills, and all its previous departments to be restored. The workers should be given back their jobs. They should be paid all their wages even for the years of closure of the Mills along with their employees' fund that was seized by Abdul Fatah.

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