Update from Comrade Talha Saad on PTCL Strike

The workers of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) have been engaged in a historical battle with capital for past two months. The Pakistani state and media tried their best to prevent the workers’ voice from being echoed not only in Pakistan but also around the world. In order to create awareness and solidarity for the PTCL workers strike internationally I wrote a report for the Red Phoenix. This report may be considered its sequel.

As I had mentioned previously, the police used brutal force to crush the strike and the protests organized by the workers and their sympathizers. All of the union leaders were arrested in police raids on the PTCL, along with many other workers. The union leaders were subjected to inhumane torture and maltreatment. Cases were prepared under the Anti-Terrorism Act in which a special tribunal was arranged. The Anti-Terrorism Act is a powerful tool used by the Pakistani state to crush all sort of political dissent in the name of the “War on Terror.” The reason given to try the workers under the Anti Terrorism laws was because a police officer had suffered an abrasion during a protest.

During the trial, one of the judges admitted that the trial of the workers under the Anti-Terrorism Act was unjustifiable as they had taken out a peaceful and legal protest demanding a right given to them by the Parliament. Despite this admission, the Judges refused to scrap the case and free the workers unconditionally. Bail was only granted when the union leaders agreed to recognize the agreement reached between the PTCL management and the pocket union, and called off the strike. The judiciary has been an old enemy of labor in Pakistan. It has justified military coups and jailed union leaders in the past. Nowadays, the “Free Judiciary” is busy portraying itself as a messiah in front of the people. The Chief Justice takes Suo Motto action on petty issues but does not act to protect the future of 26,000 workers. The media also played a very negative part in breaking the worker’s strike. It gave a complete blackout when the police were launching operations against the workers. However, in order to protect the interests of the shareholders of PTCL, the TV channels started broadcasting false news about the strike ending, which created a lot of confusion in the worker’s ranks.

False news was aired about the reinstatement of the 1200 workers sacked during the strike. The wages which were stopped for two months during the strike were not released, nor was any increase in pay, in accordance with the announcement of the government, given. These issues were not highlighted by the satellite channels or the newspapers. Instead, articles condemning the workers were published; in fact even the news reports contained biased statements.

Last week more than 200 workers who actively participated in the movement were banned from entering the PTCL premises for an indefinite period. This shows that despite the fact that the strike is over, the management plans to continue its onslaught against its employees. The workers are well aware of this, and are planning a new wave of resistance to defend their rights. Comrades, once again we appeal to you to take our voices to the workers and youth of your country. Expose the tyranny and hypocrisy of the Pakistani state before your people. The Pakistani state has become an international player thanks to the War on Terror. It uses this status as a “moderate enlightened” state to fight its own working class and national minorities. The Pakistani judiciary and media are portrayed as free and democracy-loving institutions, but their reality is that they are nothing but authoritarian institutions, with the sole aim to keep the people oppressed.

The greatest lesson we have learned from this movement is that the working class stands isolated when it fights any segment of the ruling class. Its ally can only be the peasantry and oppressed nationalities who are similar victims of state terror. We hope that this struggle earns us the sympathies and solidarity of our working class comrades around the world.

Talha Saad

Categories: Economic Exploitation, International, Pakistan, Workers Struggle

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