Pakistan: Government starts crackdown against Telecom trade unionists

The stakes have been raised sharply in the battle between Pakistan’s telecommunications workers and the Musharraf government over the question of the privatisation of the industry.

Today, paramilitary police arrested 8 trade unionists and activists in Islamabad including Zafar Zaidi, a leader of the Pakistan Telecommunications Union and Tanveer Shah, a member of the Action Committee (which brings together the nine unions in the telecommunications sector) from the headquarters of the Pakistan Telecommunications Company Ltd (PTCL).

Yesterday, the Action Committee decided that it would boycott all future negotiations with management because of the failure of the government and management to honour the agreement they signed which brought about the suspension of the strike on Friday 4 June. In this they promised an indefinite postponement of privatisation and the agreement of 28 demands from the workforce on wages and conditions. Ever since then government officials have been attempting to force the unions to sign a deal on privatisation.

Moreover the Action Committee had decided that they would restart the strike from Monday 20 June and would switch off the telecommunications system if any trade unionists were arrested or if the government unilaterally announced a new date for privatisation.

The government has now gone ahead and done this – and will begin the bidding process for PTCL on 18 June. The Action Committee had restarted the strike and has said that it will switch off the telecommunications system from 15th June.

In order to protect the leadership of the strike from arrests many activists are moving from house to house on a daily basis. All the main activists of the Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan have taken this precaution as well as members of the Socialist Movement Pakistan who are involved in the strike.

This turn of events is extremely serious. International protests played an important role in forcing the government to hold back from a crackdown on the strike two weeks ago. But even more protests are needed now. All socialists and activists have a duty to come to the aid of the Pakistani telecommunications workers. Please send letters of protests to the following email addresses as well as to the Pakistani embassy in your country.

Protests should demand:

  • Release all telecommunications workers and trade unionists leaders taken into custody. Stop the crackdown now. No more arrests
  • For the immediate withdrawal of all paramilitary and police forces from in and around PTCL premises
  • Honour the 4 June agreement – No to the privatisation of PTCL
  • Full support to PTCL workers fighting privatisation

Send to:

  • Awais Leghari, Minister Telecom and Information Technology, and
  • Junaid Khan, President PTCL,
  • M.Shahzad Sadan, Senior Vice President PTCL,

Please send copies to:

  • and

Letters of solidarity to:

  • Trade Union Rights campaign at

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June 2005