With political gimmickry on display, the interior minister Rehman Malik, a real joker, outwitted all his colleagues saying he suspects terrorism. This is a desperate attempt to divert attention from the crimes jointly committed by the PPP and ML(N) governments
On September 14, a smiling President Asif Zardari, escorted by a large caravan arrived at Lahore’s Mao Hospital. Waving to his sycophants, he entered the hospital to enquire after the health of workers injured in a factory fire on September 11. The inferno claimed the lives of 27 other workers. At the time of writing not a single Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader has visited the gutted factory or the bereaved families.
The 10-minute presidential visit to the Mao Hospital was a knee-jerk response to the visit of Nawaz Sharif to the Karachi factory where over 300 workers died on the same day in a similar incident. Nawaz Sharif who heads Muslim League [Nawaz faction] is the president’s main rival. Whereas Nawaz Sharif announced Rupees 300,000 compensation for every worker killed in the Karachi fire on behalf of the Punjab government, President Zardari offered only flowers to the five injured workers. The Punjab province is ruled by Muslim League [Nawaz] while PPP runs the Sindh province. Lahore is Punjab’s capital while Karachi is Sindh’s capital.
In the initial three days following the worst industrial accident in Pakistan’s history, routine condolence messages from these two major leaders were reported in the media. Once Nawaz Sharif landed Sindh, President Zardari dashed to Lahore.
The PPP and Muslim League traded accusations, each accusing the other of negligence. In fact there have been no factory inspections in the last four years. Mills and factories have literally become concentration camps.
Under the Musharraf dictatorship, Punjab chief minister Pervez Ilahi banned labour inspections across the province.
The Muslim League government in Punjab did not lift this ban on inspections until a pharmaceutical factory in Lahore caught fire on 4th January 2012. Twenty-seven workers were burnt to death. Trade unions had been demanding an end to the ban long before the January 4 fire at the Lahore factory. But even though the ban was lifted, no practical steps were taken by the Labour Department. (Ironically, Pervez Ilahi of Pakistan Muslim League [Q] who accompanied President Zardari during his hospital visit is presently the country’s deputy prime minister.)
The situation was even more miserable in the Sindh province where the PPP and its ally, MQM, were in power. Here there was not a ban on factory inspections. But in practice, inspections were almost impossible.
Meanwhile these incidents are the topic of talk shows on several TV channels. PPP leaders are pitched against the Muslim League stalwarts. A blame game goes on for an hour on the TV screens. Nobody points out that the trade unions and the labour leaders have been demanding labour inspections for years. These tragedies could have been averted had the labour laws on safety been mandated as a result of factory inspections.
With political gimmickry on display, the interior minister Rehman Malik, a real joker, has outwitted all his colleagues saying he suspects terrorism. This is a desperate attempt to divert attention from the crimes jointly committed by the PPP and Muslim League governments.
Commercial media lends Rehman Malik a helping hand. Certain anchor persons spread the rumour that the factory bosses in Karachi were asked to pay extortion money (bhatta). It is rumoured that the fire might have been a result of mischief on the part of gangsters when the bosses refused to pay extortion money.
Apart from the rich politicians and commercial media, the judiciary has also entered the fray to rescue the class judges always protect. The factory owners influenced the Sindh High Court, Larkana bench in their favour .The court granted them the so-called protective bail for eight days.
The fact that “Faisalabad 6” [six textile workers accused of arson at a factory] were collectively sentenced to 590 years of jail terms reveals the real class character of the judiciary. In the so-called arson incident nobody was killed. These six workers were not granted bail. It is important to point out that the bosses went to Larkana bench, the home town of Bhutto, instead of Karachi.
Ordinary people of Pakistan are shocked over the incident. There is great sympathy for the workers who lost their lives. We must build a genuine movement for decent wage and working conditions for the industrial working class. The twin-tragedy on 9/11 is a wakeup call, yet again.