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Victimising labour

Posted in Law, Pakistan with tags , , , , , on June 11, 2009 by Umer


Umer A. Chaudhry

Just as Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani reiterated the strong resolve of his government to revise the anti-workers legislation of the country on May 30th, an ugly episode unfolded in Lahore that exposes the deep prejudice against the working classes entrenched in the folds of the Pakistani State. Niaz Shaikh, a labor leader associated with the Labour Party of Pakistan and National Trade Union Federation, was arrested from Model Town, Lahore, by police on May 25th on baseless charges of dacoity that purportedly took place in 2006. His real crime, however, was that he assisted the disorganized workers of the factory unit of an interior designing company to form their first trade union. Such crimes seldom go unnoticed by the owners of the industries who are well aware of how to use the corrupt law enforcement officers. This time around, Niaz Shaik had to face to the brunt for helping poor workers in their legitimate struggle for the fundamental constitutional right to form a trade union.

When the Prime Minister of Pakistan announced his government’s plan to form a new labor policy that will end all anti-workers legislation on May 30th, Niaz Shaikh was presented in handcuffs at the court of the Senior Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate at Model Town Courts, Arif Khan Niazi, for the extension of physical remand. Upon hearing the issue in detail, the Judge held that the charges of dacoity on Niaz Shaikh were not proved. Niaz Shaikh was discharged and Police was ordered to open his handcuffs. Had the entire drama ended there and then, it could have been a triumph of justice. Justice, however, is never easy to find in Pakistan. The Police, in utter disregard of the Court’s order, refused to remove the handcuffs of Niaz Shaikh and rearrested him. Neither the Court nor Niaz Shaikh was informed if any charges other than the 2006 dacoity lied against him. He was arrested, in plain violation to his fundamental rights and in complete disrespect of the verdict of the Court.

After the second arrest, it took more than a day to find the whereabouts of Niaz Shaikh. His supporters in the meanwhile were running between Model Town and Garden Town in his search, only to find later in the day that he was detained in Garden Town. A new case was framed against Niaz. He was allegedly involved in cheating and criminal intimidation all the while when he was under arrest in Model Town. The workers of the Interwood, in the meanwhile, were being constantly harassed and threatened by the law enforcement agencies.

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