By Ali Imran
RAWALPINDI - The labour community of the city observed International Labour Day on Tuesday with traditional zeal and fervour to pay homage to the sacrifices of Chicago martyrs and highlight the maladies being faced by working class in the country.
In this regard, the labour unions throughout the city held protest demonstrations, took out rallies and organised seminars in which speakers threw light on the history and significance of International Labour Day and on social and economics achievements of the labour.
Meanwhile, tens of hundreds of poor labourers including women and children remained busy in daily work in several parts of the city without knowing that this day was supposed to be observed for their rights.
Hundreds of trade union representatives and workers held a rally on Benazir Bhutto Road (BBR) to pay tribute to the martyrs of Chicago, under the aegis of “Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF) Northern Punjab Region”. The participants, carrying banners and placards mentioning slogans in favour of labourers, were chanting slogans against sky rocketing price hike of essential commodities and growing unemployment of the youth and working class in result of closure of factories and industries due to shortage of gas and electricity, proposed privatisation of public utilities at the behest of the World Bank and exploitation of the peasants through outdated feudal system in the country.
The protestors blasted government for swelling the prices of petroleum products and demanded an immediate decrease.
The rally was led by Regional Chairman on the Federation Zafarullah Khan Niazi along with Muhammad Akram Bunda, Deputy Secretary Mian Rehman Ghani, Javed Iqbal Baloch, Ramzan Jadoon, Raja Khalil Ashraf, Sajjad Hussain Sajid, Riaz Mughal, Malik Nawaz, Qazi Naeem Qureshi, Malik Mushtaq, Kamran Changaiz, Chaudhry Mubashar and other representatives of the Federation.
Hundreds of workers of the different Trade Unions affiliated with PWF, including Pakistan Wapda Hydroelectric Central Labour Union, PWD Workers Union Punjab, PTV Workers Union, Railway Inqilabi Union, Railway Labour Union, ZTBL Union, APCA Rawalpindi and PTUDC were present on the occasion.
Earlier the participants assembled at Rawalpindi Islamabad Press Club (RIPC) where Zafar Khan demanded of the government to bring the labour laws in conformity with article 17/A of the Constitution of Pakistan and international obligations undertaken by ratifying ILO convention No 87 and 89. He also urged the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan to convene National Tripartite Conference at the earliest to solve the serious economic and social hardships being faced by the working class and teeming masses of the country and introduce radical social and economic reforms to establish an egalitarian society.
“The government should restore the subsidy on petroleum, sugar, ghee, rice, wheat and other eatable items, as well as allow cheaper electricity rate to the low income domestic consumers,” Zafar said demanding 100 per cent rise in salaries in upcoming budgets.
The speakers also demanded to construct Hydel and coal fired Thermal Power Houses and provided fuel and gas to private power houses to abolish load shedding in the country.
“The brutal murder of a labourer Waqar at the hands of Police two days before celebration of International Labour Day is the worst example of violation of labourers rights” said Pakistan Aman Party (PAP) Chairman Haji Gulzar Ahmed Awan at a function held on the eve of ILD here. On the occasion, party’s office bearers and Young Wing were also present.
He held Punjab government responsible for the murder of Waqar, saying: “Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has badly failed in changing the thana culture and in stopping Police atrocities.”
He urged the CM to compensate the victim family, besides taking strict action against the police officials involved in such heinous crime. He said that the government should also end political interference from Police department so that masses could justice. He said that the labourers have been playing a vital role in country’s uplift rather the rulers were living a luxuries life and destroying the economy of Pakistan.
PAP Chairman was of view that the rights of poor labourers were being usurped by high and mighty. “Now the time has come for labourers to come forward to get their rights with power” he added.
Sunni Tehrik Pakistan (STP) Labour Wing also organised a function at Misrial Road to observe ILD. Besides STP central leader Dr Muhammad Zahid Qadri, the other office bearers including Malik Abdul Rauf, Abdul Rehman Sialvi, Muhammad Babar Jamshed, Pir Hameed Shah, Qari Muhammad Tanvir, Malik Zeeshan and AKF Trust Volunteers were also present.
Addressing the participants, Dr Muhammad Zahid said that in a bid to win public trust, PML-N leadership would have to say good by to PPP led government before starting the movement for rule of law in the country.
He said that both the major parties were befooling the poor masses adding that “People should not be a part of match fixing between PPP and PML-N”. He said that Sharif brothers were busy in breaking the bread with PPP leadership when the country needed a long march against inflation and terrorism. He said that both the parties got votes on the name of welfare of labourers but did nothing after came into power. He said that STP would change the fate of labourers after coming into power. Ittefaq Taxi Drivers Union Rawalpindi Islamabad also took out a rally to express solidarity with labourers. The rally was participated by ITDURI head Nasir Khan, Secretary General Mubarik Ch, Raja Azeem, Jamil Khattak, Khizar Hayyat, Raja Khalid and a large number of taxi drivers.
The protestors chanted slogans against the government. Some of charged protestors also had beaten their chests cursing the present regime for sucking blood of poor masses. “PPP government has compelled destitute segments of the society to swallow poison” said a taxi driver while rolling tears into his eyes.
The speakers denounced PPP led government’s anti-poor policies. They said that the taxi drivers were suffering a lot because of CNG loadshedding. They demanded of the government to abolish CNG loadshedding and decrease prices of daily use items.
Railway Carriage and Staff Association of twin cities also organized a seminar to pay homage to the labourers. RCSA Chief Organizer Mubarak Hussain, speaking on the occasion, said that the working class was in trouble and asked the rulers to provide facilities to the labourers. “May 1, International Labour Day is the name struggles of labourers,” he added.
On the other hand a large number of labourers kept busy in working in various areas of the city just ignoring the importance of ILD. “I do not know what ILD is or why people observe it. What I know is how to earn Rs 400 after 8 hours to buy food for my family” said Gulfraz Khan, a labourer working in an under construction building at Gulshan-e-Abad.
Tanveer Bhatti, another labourer, was of view that his participation in any rally being taken out for labourers rights would not pay him Rs 350 after ending the day. “I will do work and take money from owner in evening to buy food for my family” he added.