Report: Privitisation Attacks and the Workers Movements in Pakistan

Last year in February, a new chapter opened up in the workers movement history of Pakistan. PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) workers carried out a complete strike for eight days during which not a single flight flew inside or outside of the country. The strike started after the barbaric murder of two workers in Karachi who had been protesting against privatisation of the airlines. The strike raised many questions which have yet to be answered even after one year of the incident. The first question is on the labour leaders. The government under the dictate of IMF and World Bank has been carrying out brutal attacks on PIA workers, rolling back reforms which were won by the workers after decades of struggle. but the labour leadership has been retreating continuously in face of this onslaught. For petty gains and fear of reprisals, the whole struggle is liquidated while the common worker is desperate to sacrifice his life for a few gains. During the anti-privatisation movement of PTCL (Pakistan Telecom Company Limited), thousands of common workers fought heroically (in 2005) but the cause was lost due to the betrayal of a handful of political leaders. Today the conditions have changed and there is severe resentment, anger and the will to struggle in the workers but the leadership has nothing to offer except tactics of delay and despair. The leadership is afraid of a decisive battle. The struggle of teachers of Punjab is another example. The teachers of 52000 schools facing privatisation were preparing enthusiastically for a decisive battle with the government against privatisation by boycotting exams on 2nd February 2017 but the boycott was called off at the 11th hour by the leadership on sham promises of the government. It is clear from government announcements and budgetary plans that the government has finalised all plans for the complete privatisation of education and healthcare sectors. The process has been put on the fast track for quite some time now. The PIA movement also suffered a tremendous loss because of leadership’s inactions and a fresh struggle against privatisation is still not being organised even when the common workers are willing to put up a strenuous fight.

Along with labour leadership, questions have also been raised on the role of political parties. It is abundantly clear now that no political party is willing to raise a voice against poverty and unemployment, while all the parties are in full agreement on the economic road map worked out by international financial institutions. That is why not a single voice was raised for the murdered workers of PIA by any party or organisation and no demand for any kind of punishment for the responsible has been put forward. In these conditions, questions are arising in the minds of workers but there is no one available, political party or organisation to address these questions. The coming days will bring an increase in the ferocity of attacks by the government and international financial agencies on workers. The interests on debt from different international and local financial institutions have become unbearable while the interests and debt of $62 billion is now also added to this pile of misery. Exports are continuously falling while remittances of exported workers from the Middle East and other countries are also decreasing day by day. The imports of China are threatening to shut down whatever local meagre industry was functional. 40% stocks of the stock market have been bought by a Shanghai based consortium. All this investment is not going to create any new jobs but will bring a flood of unemployment with it. Only steel imports from China are enough to destroy the local steel industry. Textile, cement and other industries will also suffer the same fate. Chinese businessmen are already notorious worldwide for the brutal exploitation of its workers. Along with the state plunder, the local leaderships of different parties in the provinces are also looting the people to their heart’s content. But there is also resistance against this plunder. This resistance is scattered and not organised but the immense pressures of poverty and need will forge them together into a single united struggle. These scattered movements will inevitably express themselves politically while regional and international changes will also have a direct effect. Example of privatisation of essential services in UK for example NHS, Railways and energy, brought miseries to employees and customers. The menace of privatisation should end and public ownership should be protected at all costs by workers. PTUS is seeking support from international organisations to support Pakistan’s trade unions struggles against ruthless privatisations.