Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1935

Workers’ struggles shake the dictator

This article is over 19 years, 2 months old
The growth of resistance in Pakistan is raising the pressure on General Musharraf’s military regime, writes Riaz Ahmed
Issue 1935

AN ALLIANCE of two major unions, and support from the mid-level leaders of major political parties, has come together to increase the power of workers fighting against privatisation.

The struggle against the privatisation of the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation has been continuing for almost two months now.

Hundreds of anti-privatisation electricity workers staged another demonstration in Karachi on Monday of last week.

Protests are taking place in other parts of the Sindh province against the dismantling of another electricity company into 13 units, which will then be privatised.

Protests began in December. Each time the government leaked a rumour about the privatisation a big protest followed and the sell-off was postponed.

The scale of the protests have been wider than against any of the 144 privatisations that have taken place since 1991.

The experience of the last 14 years has shown that privatisation means that thousands of workers are laid off, products become more expensive, or the new owners shut down the workplaces.

General Musharraf overthrew the civilian government in 1999. His military regime has continued the neo-liberal policies followed by previous governments.

Getting rid of state enterprises has provided the money to buy oil, maintain the military and service debt.

However, Musharraf’s support for the US’s imperialist wars and its neo-liberal policies have resulted in massive social unrest.

The Pakistani military began an operation to hunt down suspected Islamist terrorists in the north western tribal area of Waziristan last year. It subjected the local population to bombardment.

This operation, costing the lives of hundreds of Pakistani military and thousands of uncounted civilian deaths, is ongoing.

A new port in Gawadar (in the west Pakistani province of Balochistan) brought millions of dollars of investment. But this development is ravaging the lives of ordinary people with the displacement of thousands.

Unemployment and national discrimination has led to a civil war with organised attacks on military installations since late 2003.

In Karachi a huge section of the population goes without clean water or a sewerage system.

Over one million landless peasants are fighting for land rights and against a military takeover in the largest province of Punjab.

The lack of rains and the creation of canals have caused parts of Sindh to go without water. In big cities like Hyderabad, Sukkar and Nawabshah this has led to massive water riots.

Different groups throughout the country have in the past three months stood up against the might of the military. The regime seems unable to control the situation, although it has repressed workers.

The recent workers’ struggles appear to have broken the long period of beatings without a fightback.

Their success depends on fresh leadership emerging from below that spreads the resistance.

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