MULTAN/MUZAFFARGARH/

GUJRANWALA

A large number of workers took to the streets here as a protest against the proposed privatisation of Wapda and distribution companies “at the behest of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank”, and threatened to march towards Islamabad if the plan is implemented.

The South Punjab region, protesters strongly opposed the government’s intentions to privatise the institutions and staged demonstrations across. The Wapda workers in Multan, Muzaffargarh, Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan and other cities staged sit-ins at different spots and shouted slogans against the government. They were also holding placards and banners inscribed with their demands regarding immediate suspension of privatization process.

The Multan demo was organised by local chapter of All Pakistan Wapda Hydro Electric Workers Union and the protesters marched between Bakhtiar Labour Hall and Nawan Shehr Chowk.

Speaking on the occasion, the labour leaders including Ghulam Rasul Gujjar, Regional Chairman, Altaf Mahar, Sajjad Ahmed Baloch, Malik Saeed Ahmed, Ch Muhammad Khalid, Sheikh Muhammad Imran, Syed Agha Hussain, Rashid Yamin, Malik Anwar Awan, Mukhtar Bukhari, Saleem Gilani, Haji Muhammad Zarrar, and Muhammad Shafaqat Khar threatened to hold long march towards Islamabad if it privatised the authority.

Through a unanimously adopted resolution, they asked the government to allocate sufficient resources to build new hydel and thermal powerhouses in the public sector.  They accused the government of acting upon IMF and World Bank dictation. They proposed to the government to broaden tax net instead of selling out national institutions.

At Jatoi, Kotadu, Alipur and Muzaffargarh, the protesters also raised voice against terrorism, aggravating unemployment rate due to the energy crisis, and the law and order situation in the country. The protest was arranged by All Pakistan Wapda Hydro Electric Workers Union in Muzaffargarh.

They reached Purani Chungi No2 Hall and marched on Jhang Road, Jhang Chowk. They held a demonstration at Chowk Khuchari. Amid anti-privatisation slogans, the workers warned they would march on Islamabad in case the government went ahead with its plans to privatise the national institutions.

Presented by veteran trade union leaders Saifullah Khan Surani, Mirza Kousar, Hamayyum Gujjar and Abdul Ghaffar , a resolution urged the government to allocate sufficient resources to build new hydel and thermal powerhouses in the public sector. They demanded that the government should announced energy theft a cognizable offence and establish special courts to punish the thieves. The resolution regretted that the government could not control inflation that had made the life of the common man miserable.

Trade union leaders urged the four provinces to ensure the implementation of all labour laws, including social security, old-age benefits, safety and health for workers at all industrial and commercial establishments in accordance with the principles of ILO’s Convention 81 ratified by the Pakistani government. They proposed that instead of getting dictation from the IMF, the government widen the tax base.

In Gujranwala, The protesters were led by regional chairman of Wapda Hydro Electric Labour Union Muhammad Iqbal Dar, Secretary General Waliur Rehman and Tanvir Hussain Nagra. The protesters blocked the Grand Trunk Road in front of Gepco office for about three hours, which caused difficulties for the passengers. The protesters chanted slogans against the government and demanded that this decision may be revised so that workers could serve their duties smoothly. Otherwise, they threatened, Wapda employes would stage a sit-in in front of residence of the federal minister for water and power.