We wish to share with you the following statement from Labour Education Foundation.
Asian Human Rights Commission
A Statement from Labour Education Foundation forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission
Anti-Terrorist Court’s judge Mian Muhammad Anwar Nazir sentenced six Labour Qaumi Movement’s leaders for 10 years each under terrorism charges in Faisalabad, Punjab province this evening.
Four Labour Quami Movement (LQM’s) leaders Akbar Ali Kamboh, Babar Shafiq Randhawa, Fazal Elahi, Rana Riaz Ahmed were arrested on July 22, 2010 by Faisalabad police after a strike call by power loom workers for 17% increase in wages as per announcement of the government. Two other leaders Muhammad Aslam Malik and Asghar Ali Ansari were also arrested under same charges four months back.
Arrests of the workers under terrorism charges and this decision by the court is result of a notorious campaign by the owners, district administration and local politicians against rising power loom workers movement in Faisalabad. Punjab Government’s actions against workers are increasing with everyday. Appointments of Aftab Cheema as District Police Officer (DPO0 and Nasim Sadiq as District Coordination Officer (DCO) of Faisalabad last year by Shehbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, were mainly to control the rising movement of workers. These two officers made many promises with LQM leadership to re-investigate the case against arrested workers but did not fulfil these promises. Instead they have supported owners of the power looms in their actions against workers.
More than 100,000 workers of power loom in Faisalabad district went on strike on July 20, 2010 for an increase of wages which had been announced by the government during the presentation of budget 2010-11. The government announced 17 % rise in the minimum wage for the private sector workers. Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM), organization of the power loom workers in Faisalabad, Jhang and other districts, had been in negotiation with power loom owners for three weeks for wage increase. The power loom employers were not accepting these just demands and started spreading poisonous propaganda against workers by labeling them as terrorists.
The four leaders of the striking workers were then illegally arrested by the Thekri Wala police station, Sudhar, Faisalabad without any First Information Report (FIR) and kept in police lock up without any charges.
It was reported that during the strike the workers remained peaceful but the owners of factories and their henchmen and police remained violent against the striking workers. The owners and their henchmen resorted to violence by throwing stones and bricks on the peaceful march of workers from one side of the protest, while police used tear gas shells on the workers from the other end. 25 workers were injured including Mr. Tahir Rana, the president of LQM Faisalabad district, who was critically injured. Around 100 workers were also arrested.
The print and electronic media reported that thousands of workers from different areas of Faisalabad district have marched despite a police ban on public gatherings. As the workers began their march, gangsters of power loom owners started straight firing at the striking workers in Sudhar area of Faisalabad. Sudhar is the suburb of Faisalabad where a big number of power loom factories is located. This area had been a scuffle ground between workers and owners for the three years as the workers organized themselves effectively in huge number there.
Leadership of LQM has is holding a workers’ meeting tomorrow to discuss the future strategy after decision for sentencing workers. Labour Education Foundation condemns decision of sentencing workers under terrorism charges for raising voice wage increase. We believe that only way out for workers in the present setup of capitalists and feudals is to organize more and more workers and to develop movements across Pakistan.
Source: Asian Human Rights Commission – 1/11/2011