Friday, August 22, 2014

Pakistan: Labour activists speak up against use of religion for political gain

Labour, trade unions demand electoral reforms
Press Release
August 09, 2014
KARACHI: Leaders of trade unions, labour supporting organisations, human rights organisations and pro-democracy activists on Friday criticised alleged attempts to subvert the current democratic system and demanded making true reforms in the electoral systems by providing representations to workers, peasants and middle class people. Addressing a joint press conference at Karachi Press Club they resolved to join hands to foil any attempt to derail the present democratic system through unconstitutional methods. They pointed out that attempts like “Azadi March” by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on August 14 and Youm-e-Shuhada by Pakistani Awami Tahrik (PAT) on August 10 would not bring positive change for the common people. Instead, such attempts would create problems for the people. 

The real independence for the working class people would be achieved when representatives of workers, peasants and middle class would be able to reach the parliament and provincial assemblies instead of sons of landlords, feudals or capitalists. They agreed that the present democratic system is not a true representative system, but any change through unconstitutional means should not be accepted and all changes should come through parliament. “All the matters should be discussed in the parliament and people’s representatives should be taken into confidence on vital national matters,” the statement issued on the occasion said, adding that the present governments at the centres and the four provinces have done nothing for the welfare and protection of workers’ rights during the one-year tenure. They criticised the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leadership, whose Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi and General Secretary Jahangir Tareen were only feudal lords that represented the landlords against land reforms in Supreme Court petitions. 

They welcomed formation of parliament’s electoral reforms committee and said that besides making changes in effective elections, it should also consider proposal to ensure that representatives of workers, peasants, middle class and all religions can get chance to be elected in the parliament. “We would also provide suggestions for providing representations to the workers in the parliament and would seek time to personally meet and present suggestions to the members of the committee,” said Karamat Ali of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at the press conference. He criticized the suggested use of the Holy Quran by Dr Tahirul Qadri at the rally on Youm-e-Shuhada on August 10 in Lahore. The use of religion or religious symbols for political purposes should be condemned and legal action should be taken against Dr Qadri for inciting people against the government. “By asking the people to enter policemen’s homes and advising people to force policemen to recite Holy Quran on gun points is a condemnable act and we welcome registration of cases against Dr Qadri,” he added. He also told the newsmen that Pakistani labour organisations are supporting the campaign of international labour organizations against atrocities of Israel in Gaza: “Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) against Israel apartheid.”
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Civil society voices concern over anti-govt movements
our correspondent
Saturday, August 09, 2014
Alarmed by the ‘provocative’ banter dominating the current political discourse ahead of the two mass anti-government protests in Punjab next week, 25 trade unions and civil society organisations gathered at the Karachi Press Club on Friday to air their concerns.
Denouncing the “Youm-e-Shuhuda” planned by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Lahore and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s “Azadi March” in Islamabad, the speakers said that though the current democratic system had its flaws, open threats of a forced ouster and other measures that encourage individuals to take the law into their own hands should never be the line of action either.

Led by the Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education and Research (Piler) and supported by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the People’s Labour Federation, the trade union representatives said that permission to hold peaceful protest rallies was one of the many benefits of democracy, but the impending events reeked of intent to derail the current democratically-elected government.

Speaking on everyone’s behalf, Piler chief Karamat Ali made it clear that the civil society was not in support of the upcoming protests and openly condemned any such “undemocratic and unconstitutional” attempts at thwarting the progress of democracy. He said the statements being made by leaders of the parties spearheading the demonstrations were openly inciting social anarchy. Urging everyone to condemn such behaviour, Ali said that Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s request to his supporters to hang copies of the Holy Quran around their necks was a highly condemnable call. “No one has ownership over religious scripture and any attempts to use it for political gains should be vehemently condemned,” he said.

The Piler chief said that complaints over election rigging were nothing new and the civil society recognised the need for reforms in the electoral system. “However, the issue should be resolved through talks in parliamentary circles and by pressuring the committee set up to probe such allegations,” said Ali. “A democratic set up allows all stakeholders, and the public, to provide feedback to the government and its institutions, which is exactly what we plan to do,” he said, adding that all the organisations present would forward suggestions to the Electoral Reforms Committee.