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Pakistan : Thousands of workers march against privatisation

ISLAMABAD, Feb 19: Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah expressed strong opposition to privatisation policies of the government and assured workers of state entities that his party would oppose moves

towards selling public organisations.

He was addressing thousands of workers of Wapda, Railways, National Bank and other public sector organisations at a protest demonstration organised by All Pakistan Wapda Hydro-electric Workers Union.

The protesting workers, who arrived in the federal capital from all over the country, gathered in front of the National Press Club and marched towards Aabpara waving national flags and red flags.

They carried banners condemning the proposed privatisation of electricity at the behest of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

“People’s Party will fight for the workers’ rights in the parliament and on the streets,” Khursheed Shah said.

He said the government’s anti-worker policies had left the labourers and farmers destitute.

“During the PPP’s tenure, the workers were made owners of the companies they worked for. Wages were raised to an unprecedented level,” he said.

Khursheed Shah vowed to raise the issue at the National Assembly and Senate.

The union leaders, speaking to the protesting workers, alleged that the government had been working on plans to privatise Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco), Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco), Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) and other electric supply companies.

Veteran trade union leader Khursheed Ahmad demanded that privatisation of power distribution companies should be stopped immediately. Reforms should be introduced to provide cheap electricity to citizens and overcome loadshedding, he said.

“The government should develop cheaper sources of electricity generation such as hydel, gas and coal rather than relying on furnace oil,” he said.

The union leaders called upon the government to have dialogue with unions and discuss privatisation in the National Assembly and Senate rather than taking unilateral action.

They warned that if the government does not respond to their demands within a week they would be compelled to take industrial action.

Wapda workers would resort to a three-day electricity shut down, a union leader warned.

Speaking on the occasion, PPP labour leader Chaudhry Manzoor vowed that they would resist any move from the government which is against the interests of the working class.

Addressing the government, he said: “Beware of the day when not only electricity is disconnected but also telephone, gas, railways are suspended. These workers should not be taken lightly because they are a force which could disrupt the whole system.”

Published by Daily Dawn on Feb 19, 2015

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