Introduction by Ali Khan:
The Haqooq-e-Khalq (rights of creation) party is a growing political movement in the heart of Pakistan’s political and economic hub of Punjab. Their general secretary, the historian Ammar Ali Jan, is a council member of The Progressive International alongside people as Jeremy Corbyn and Colombia’s first leftist president Gustavo Petro. The party operates in a challenging political environment, facing repression from the state and the threat of arrest, abduction, even assassination.
As part of the work of building a political movement in Pakistan’s fragile democracy, the party is involved in initiatives such as education and medical camps for the poorest Pakistanis, flood and general poverty relief efforts, advocacy against water pollution among others.
Now, the party has launched a campaign to finance a legal advocacy fund for workers facing economic headwinds in the aftermath of the flooding and a global economic slowdown. They are appealing for donations, big and small, and publicity for their efforts to give workers dignity. As a Pakistani emigre, I ask readers of theleftberlin to read their appeal, republished below, and consider donating to it if possible. In addition, I ask to share this appeal with friends, family and acquaintances to whom defense of worker rights is near and dear.
If successful in its mission, the funds will help transform the legal advocacy operation of Haqooq-e-Khalq by shifting from a voluntary, pro bono project to a more regular and organised centre for worker defense. This can give financial security for dedicated lawyers who wish to more extensively represent workers lacking funds to defend themselves in court, in short those who are most vulnerable to abuse by employers.
Call for Solidarity
To Whom it May Concern:
Pakistan has been devastated by the convergence of multiple crises: climate disaster, food shortages and inflation as high as 40 percent. The corporate sector, which draws privileges worth $3 billion annually from the state, is shifting the burden of the growing crisis onto the working class through mass layoffs and closure of factories without compensation for workers. In recent weeks, Pakistan’s textile industry has fired thousands of workers without paying their full dues, pushing millions deeper into poverty.
With 40 percent children already malnourished, and accelerating food and fuel inflation, the consequences of mass unemployment will be catastrophic. Moreover, a 2019 Human Rights Watch report details the dangerous environment in which textile workers perform their labor, with weak environmental, health and safety standards that not only damage the workers’ health but also cause immense pollution in working class neighborhoods. Preliminary findings from an in-progress study by the Haqooq e Khalq Party (HKP) reveals that lead content in water supply of key industrial areas exceeds permissible limits by an unfathomable 1000%.
The primary reason workers are unable to effectively push back against this attack on their incomes and health is that less than one percent of the country’s workforce is unionized. Moreover, there is no legal aid center that can fight for workers, who are often denied months of salaries due to lack of legal representation. The real cost of cheap garments from Pakistan is being borne by workers in the form of wage theft, unemployment, police brutality and health problems.
For the past few years, HKP has been leading the fight against labor exploitation. We have organized numerous labor protests for minimum wages and better working conditions. Lastly, considering the close relationship between labor and environmental exploitation, we have been holding sessions with workers on the health and environmental hazards they face and supporting them in their fight against pollution, unsafe working conditions, and other effects of voracious production.
One of the key sites for the implementation of labor laws are the labor courts in Pakistan where lawyers from our party regularly represent textile workers. Despite some important victories for workers’ rights, our work remains limited due to financial constraints. Consequently, HKP has decided to set up a workers’ legal aid center fully dedicated to providing pro bono services to factory workers. Our primary objectives are as follows:
Reinstatement of illegally fired workers
Implementation of labor laws
Formation of trade unions
Implementation of environmental, health and safety regulations
Textile workers from Pakistan not only produce foreign exchange for the Pakistani state through exports, but also fuel the global fast fashion industry that reaps billions of dollars in profits annually. Today, these workers face dire conditions because the system refuses to meet basic labor and environmental rights. We request sympathizers across the world to help raise funds to set up a permanent legal team to aid workers. We aim to raise an initial fund of $30,000 to build a robust infrastructure that can support working class struggles across the country.
Economic, climate and social justice all converge on the question of workers’ rights. We hope you will aid us in affirming the dignity of life amid corporate greed and abandonment from an apathetic state.
Dr. Ammar Ali Jan
Haqooq-e-Khalq Party- General Secretary
Links for more information