Pakistan: Release the arrested trade union leaders

Stop terrorising the workers movement

The four leaders of a cement factory in Lucky Marwat have been arrested under the Anti-Terrorism Act on 19th September in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province. The police have registered a case against 21 union leaders and activists. The police are trying to arrest the other leaders and activists of the union.

An official of Lucky Cement, Col.(retired) Samiullah has nominated Muhammad Ismail, Muhammad Sajjad, Bismillah, Muhammad Latif, Akram , Yousaf and 15 other in this case. The local police have accused these leaders of taking the Chinese engineers hostage, provoking workers to boycott work and threatening the factory management in speeches they delivered in a protest meeting.

According to the details, the union was protesting against the acceptance of their demands, but the factory management was not listening to the union. On 18th September 2010, the union leaders called for a strike and announced the organization of the picket at the main factory gate to press their demands. They also decided to organise a sit-in in the factory. The leaders and activists of the union organised the successful picket at the main entrance to the factory and blocked all the vehicles entering the factory. This picket continued for couple of hours. Then the leaders addressed the protest meeting and decided to besiege the administration block of the factory. When the union leaders and workers entered in the administration block and tried to talk to the general manager and other officials of the factory, the police were called and arrested the four leaders. The police baton charged the assembly to disperse the protesting workers.

Lucky Cement Plant

Later the police registered a false and fabricated case under the Anti-terror laws, which prevent bail-able offences. It is a clear attempt of the factory management to smash the union and sack the active members and leaders of the union. This is a clear union busting operation.

This is the second incident in the last two weeks in which the peaceful strikers and protesting workers have been charged with draconian anti-terror laws. It seems that the government is trying to terrify the strikers and protesters into not organising strikes and protests against low wages and appalling conditions. The striking telecom workers in Islamabad were charged with anti-terrorism laws a couple of weeks ago. Three leaders of the telecom strike are still languishing in prison after 15 days. The police also registered a completely false and fabricated case against these leaders on the charge of attacking the police with weapons and injuring one policeman with live bullet. These charges are completely baseless.

Trade Union Rights Campaign (TURCP) and Progressive Workers Federation (PWFP) strongly condemn the highhanded methods of the police and management and demand the release of all arrested leaders and workers of the union. We demand the unconditional withdrawal of all the charges and cases against the union leaders. We also demand that the demands of the union are fully met. If the police and management fail to do this then we will be forced to organise the country wide protest of demonstrations in the support of the arrested leaders. The government should stop the harassment of the workers for exercising their constitutional and democratic rights to protest and strike to protect their interests.

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September 2010