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Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 00:21:42 -0600 (CST)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: The Plight Of Labor In Pakistan
Article: 53615
Message-ID: <bulk.24861.19990204001518@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** labr.global: 218.0 **/
** Topic: The Plight Of Labor In Pakistan **
** Written 12:02 AM Jan 29, 1999 by labornews@labornet.org in cdp:labr.global **
Date: 01/29 12:22 AM
From: GCook69833@aol.com

Geoffrey Cook
P.O. Box 4233
Berkeley, California 94704

The Plight of Labor in Pakistan

By Karamat Ali, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education
29 June 1999

Berkeley The trade union activist Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education in Karachi spent a short residence at the University of California under the sponsorship of the Center for South Asia Studies.

Conversing on Pakistani trade unions responses to multinational capitals modern reentrance into South Asia, he asserted that in the perspective of the last fifty years more hurdles than opportunities have been created for labor. Partition proved to be a disjunction for labor on the subcontinent, for Pakistani labor had no contacts with their Indian counterparts till 1990 and vice versa. With the Bangladesh schism, the possibility of South Asian labor solidarity was made even worse. Bitter national rivalries overrode proletarian commonalties.

The national states in the region have used their militaries to control labor. The Pakistani and Indian states have prevented easy contact between the common people which particularly effected labor -- with the result that there is a lack of horizontal linkages in the rupee region.

Discussion between elements of the South Asian states began in the 1980s with the organization of SAARC, and a recognition of the linkages between the region. The highest paid 10% of the work force are concentrated in the permanent public sector in Pakistan. Further, all the SAARC nations have a hierarchical top/down; male dominated structure where women could rarely even join a trade union. Since women dominated only the "lesser" occupations the major trade unions were not interested in organizing them.

Before the Partition the British had already granted the right to organize although it was enterprise based; therefore, unionization in the late Raj was inwardly directed towards a specific industry. And, subsequently, during the modern Pakistani regime manufacturing unions have been hindered even further in their efforts of organizing.

At the onset of economic liberalization in the 1980s, SAARC as an economic block had not become functional as yet. There were plethora of unions in each country. In Pakistan during 1992 all manufacturing units became privatized which affected the working class negatively.

The recent Indo-Pakistani Forum along with the South Asian Convention of 1992 created a linkage between environmental issues and labor rights. In effect this confronted transnational capital moving South Asian labor into a position of solidarity. The proletariat of both India and Pakistan felt that there was no sense in demonization of their fellow workers across the old line of partition in the light of their struggle against the "enemy" of multinational capital. Democratic trade unions have a need for South Asian solidarity.

Regarding the nuclear issue Ali stated that "Nuclearization is a big set back - two beggars act nuclear at the cost of the people. At least a peace movement is beginning" It is a ploy by the two nuclear Southern Asian states to divert the populace from issues of justice and peace.

Finally Karamat Ali averred that "Labor rights should be part of the United Nations principles." He suggested that a commissioner of labor would strengthen the structure of U.N. itself. But if it this is ever instituted, it should be under the more democratic General Assembly and not the authoritarian Security Council.

This material came from the Institute for Global Communications (IGC), a non-profit, unionized, politically progressive Internet services provider. For more information, send a message to igc-info@igc.org (you will get back an automatic reply), or visit their web site at http://www.igc.org/ . IGC is a project of the Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

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