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Pakistan: Release the “Faisalabad 6”

Help the campaign for the release of workers leaders facing 490 years in jail

Six labor leaders from Faisalabad, Pakistan, have been handed jail sentences of 490 years in total. Their only crime was to lead a peaceful strike for an increase in minimum wages as announced by the government.  They are Akbar Ali Kamboh, Babar Shafiq Randhawa, Fazal Elahi, Rana Riaz Ahmed Muhammad Aslam Malik and Asghar Ali Ansari. Four of them were arrested in July 2010 while the other two were arrested in July 2011 on the same charges.

All are leaders of a power looms worker organization called, Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM) in Faisalabad, the third largest city of Pakistan. LQM is a community based labour organization fighting for the rights of the textile workers since 2004. It has a mass base among textile workers of the city and surrounding areas.

An anti-terrorist court judge on November 1, 2011, sentenced six leaders under terrorism charges in Faisalabad. As is frequently observed that Terrorists are set free by these courts and workers leaders are charged under terrorist laws in Pakistan.

They were accused of burning down a factory during the strike. This is a fabricated charge. The facts are that on the day of strike, July 20, 2010, gangsters in the pay of the factory owner started shooting at the workers who were leaving the factory to demand better wages. Some workers dared to go inside the factory and forced the gangsters to stop firing. Some of them were beaten up by the angry workers.

During the trial, the workers' advocate asked if the factory had been burnt down, then how was it able to operate again, three days later.

More than 100,000 power loom workers in Faisalabad district went on strike on July 20, 2010, for an increase of wages that had been announced by the government. The government announced 17 percent rise in the minimum wage for the private sector workers. The LQM in Faisalabad, Jhang and other districts of Punjab had been in negotiations with power loom owners for three weeks before the strike.

The long term jail sentences of these workers leaders has been a devastating blow to the workers movement in Faisalabad, and indeed across Pakistan. That the court could hand out such a draconian anti-labor judgment was beyond anyone's expectations, especially since this judiciary itself had been restored through the support of a powerful people's movement. Yet, the anti-terrorist court chose to give a verdict with the sole aim of damaging the power loom workers movement which was slowly becoming a symbol of working class militancy all over the country. 

One of the principal methods of disciplining labor under capitalism is to push them to the point where they are only left with an option of negotiating with the bosses on the latter's terms. This is done either through brute state force or by financially crushing the working class so that they only have the option of compromising in order to survive within the system. 

The bosses have used the latter tactic to ensure that these labor leaders become examples for anyone who dares to raise his/her voice against the injustices meted out to the workers. All of our jailed comrades are married and were the primary breadwinners of their families. Their families have been pushed to the brink of a financial catastrophe. The families are contemplating removing children from the schools since they are unable to even buy enough groceries.

Knowing that this is part of the political strategy of the bosses to subjugate the workers, and that it is having severe consequences for the families of the jailed leaders, the Labour Party Pakistan, the Labour Qaumi Movement, the National Trade Union Federation and the Labour Education Foundation are launching a finance appeal to support the families of our jailed comrades.

These leaders have shown tremendous courage and steadfastness in refusing to compromise with the authorities and instead suffer the consequences of speaking the truth. These families deserve our generous support not only because these comrades are suffering due to their involvement with a working class movement. But also, because the outcome of this movement, and our ability to extend solidarity and support to our comrades in difficult conditions, will dictate whether this particular event will deter working class militancy (as wished by the bosses) or act as a shining example of working class solidarity against the hideous tactics of the ruling classes.

Anti-terrorist laws are frequently used against protesting industrial workers in Punjab. Thirteen trade union leaders are facing such charges of terrorism at present time. Their real crime is fighting for a better life for their members and demanding higher wages. The Punjab government is all out to crush any trade union movement in factories which is challenging their authority.

We need your support. Social movements in South Asia particularly must come forward to show solidarity with the jailed labour leaders. We ask you to make a donation to the campaign for the release of workers.

If you wish to transfer funds, below are details of the account for sending money to this finance appeal:

 A/C Title: Labour Education Foundation A/C Number: 01801876 
Route:  Please advise and pay to Citi Bank, New York, USA Swift CITI US 33 for onward transfer to BANK ALFALAH LTD., KARACHI, PAKISTAN A/C No. 36087144 and for final transfer to BANK ALFALAH LTD., LDA PLAZA, KASHMIR ROAD, LAHORE, PAKISTAN Swift: ALFHPKKALDA for A/C No. 01801876 OF LABOUR EDUCATION FOUNDATION.

 

Please send motions and/or messages of solidarity to the

Labour Education Foundation: 25-A Davis Road, Lahore, Pakistan.

Tel: +92-42-36303808   Fax: +92-42-36271149  Email: lef@lef.org.pk  Website: www.lef.org.pk

 

For more information, please contact

Khalid Mehmood,  Director Labour Education Foundation

(kahlid@lef.org.pk)  00 92 321 9402322

Farooq Tariq, Spokesperson Labour Party Pakistan

(farooqtariq@hotmail.com)  00 92 302 8411945      

Rana Mohammed Tahir, President Labour Qaumi Movement Faisalabad

 

(Note: we three are participating in South Asian Social Forum Dhaka, Please contact us if you want to make a donation to the campaign)

 

   

 

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