Most workers underemployed, 40% in poverty – situation demands new workers’ party.
The year 2016 ended with the traditional demagogy of the ruling class parties of Pakistan. All the ruling class parties are accusing each other of corruption and other issues. The ruling party, ‘Pakistan Muslim League’ (PML) propagates that the ‘CPEC’ (China, Pakistan Economic Corridor) is an historic feat of their government. They are constantly beating the drum of positive news and statements in the national media for the past three years, that the CPEC would be a game-changer project in the region. They are also claiming that they will end the energy crisis in country by 2018. The government is also taking advantage of the improved law and order situation.
On the other hand Imran Khan’s party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-PTI) is focusing on attempts to impeach Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on corruption charges. The case of the ‘Panama papers’ scandal is in the supreme court of Pakistan. But the PTI is still unable to prove Nawaz Sharif’s corruption in court. It seems that the court will give a clean chit to Nawaz Sharif and his family in the Panama corruption case. Then the PTI will not have any other political point to oppose the PML government. The same situation faces the Pakistan People’s Party. They have no differences with Nawaz Sharifs’ economic policies. The basic reason for this is that their politics are no different from each other. All the mainstream political parties are serving the same agenda of capitalism. Any discord between them is only about sharing the power between themselves. Every one of them is ready to implement neo-liberal economic policies in full.
The situation facing the working class is worsening, day by day. The government is implementing neo-liberal economic policies,m as best they can, to be in the good books of global imperialist institutions, like the IMF and World Bank, and to continue in government. The government wanted to privatize public sector institutions like electricity, postal services, healthcare, education and all other services – where the state is spending something to alleviate the plight of the poor masses. Overall the working class is not organized, so the government wants to take advantage of this to implement a neo-liberal economic agenda ruthlessly. According to the independent labour organizations, less than 1% of the working class is unionized in Pakistan. A large number of workers are called precarious workers who fill permanent job slots in factories and workplaces. But they are treated as permanent workers nor given the salaries, conditions and rights of the permanent contracted Workers, as laid down in the labour laws. Precarious workers are often denied the right to join a union or form their own organisations.
Unemployed youth, women, minorities and migrant workers mostly perform precarious work. The growing outsourcing of work, the contractual labour system and cheap home-based work culture have increased the brutal exploitation of precarious workers in Pakistan. This is especially the case in industrial cities like Karachi, Faisalabad, Lahore, Sialkot, Multan and Hyderabad. Occupational health and safety conditions are very por; hundreds of workers die every month due to lack of safety measures in the workplaces. There are labour laws to protect workers’ rights but they have not been enforced for a long time. The ruling class is not interested in taking any serious step in this regard. All the mainstream political parties’ leaderships are based on industrialists, feudal lords and traders. Naturally they are happy to increase their profits further by not implementing the labour laws.
On the other hand, the working class movement is very weak, so, this situation allows the ruling class to brutally exploit the working class.
CPEC rhetoric and reality
The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been heralded as a “game-changer” that promises to bring peace and prosperity to Pakistan. The ruling party is also claiming that it will help reduce poverty and create big employment opportunities etc. It is a package of infrastructural and energy projects originally costed at $ 46 billion. Recently the figure has increased to $ 51 billion after China committed to fund the Karachi-Lahore rail line. An extension of China’s ambitious ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, this will upgrade and expand Pakistani infrastructure, linking China’s western province of Kashgar with Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Indian Ocean.
But due to the security situation in Pakistan and specifically in Baluchistan, the Chinese had serious security concerns regarding the project, But the Pakistan army, under the command of recently retired Gen. Raheel Shareef (COAS), gave assurances to the Chinese regime that it would provide security to the project. For this reason Pakistan’s military has trained a 30,000 strong security force to protect the infrastructure projects and the Chinese engineers.
Last December, the Chinese consortium, comprising of three Chinese exchanges (China Financial Futures Exchange Company Limited (lead bidder), Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shenzhen Stock Exchange) bought 40% of strategic shares on the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) valued at Rs8.96 billion ($85 million). So the influence of Chinese investment on the Pakistani market and economy is increasing day by day. The Pakistani ruling class is in rapture of Chinese investment and dreaming of becoming a big economic power. The ruling class also thinks that the Chinese regime is its real friend compared to the USA and others.
Such dreams and rhetoric are baseless. The ruling class in China have their own economic and strategic interests in the region. They never invest anywhere in the world without looking to defend their own interests. China is also a capitalist economy, with specific features, and one of the pillars in the global economy. The people, including those intellectuals who are mouthpieces of the ruling class, do not understand that in the domain of capitalism there is nothing of interest without generating profit and gaining interest. This will become clear soon, when confronting the new imperialist powers in the region. Chinese projects under CPEC are only given to the Chinese companies, and Pakistani companies are being offered to become their subsidiaries. There is also speculation that the Chinese regime is using their prisoners for labour in CPEC projects. So the “hopes” of creating massive employment and high economic growth will be son be shattered.
Need to build working masses’ alternative
The situation of country is worsening, day by day. About six million people are unemployed, and the majority of workers are underemployed. The minimum wage in the country is $133.58 per month. Most workers in the private sector are not getting even the minimum wages announced by the government. The working class and poor masses are suffering more and more, day by day. It is now very hard to earn a livelihood to support their families. Twenty five million children are out of schooling.
Yet, at the same time, the government is eagerly pursuing the IMF and World Bank’s instruction to privatize the public sector’s institutions. Along with public sector institutions the current government is privatizing education and healthcare. Not a single party from the mainstream political parties is aiming to serve the working class and poor masses. Their policies are only for the rich. The overall situation demands a new workers’ party, with a programme to overthrow capitalism. For this, the working class needs to be organized, along with students, youth and the unemployed, to build a working class and poor masses’ political alternative, to fight for socialsit changes and to build a classless society.