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Pakistan: Special appeal for families of killed socialist activists

By Farooq Tariq, Nasir Mansoor and Khalid Mahmood

December 27, 2009 -- The Labour Party Pakistan has lost our four most brilliant comrades, Abdul Salam, Najma Khanum, Rehana Kausar and Wahid Baloch, in a road accident on December 13 near Ormara, Baloachistan. They were in the coastal region, one of the most deprived areas of the country, to organise the home-based women workers (HBWW). They held two focus group meetings and a wider consultation on December 11, 12 and 13 in the port cities of Pasni and Gawadar. They also formed core groups and clusters of local HBWW and planned to organise more meeting in the region in month of January next year.

Comrades Abdul Salam, Najma Khanum, Rehana Kausar and Wahid Baloch were dedicated members of the team who lost their lives for the cause of downtrodden masses and were on mission until their last breath. Another member of team, Mohammed Rafiq Baloch, central president National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan (NTUF) survived but was severely injured in the fatal accident.

Comrade Abdul Salam, Najma Khanum and Rehana Kausar were staff members of the Labour Education Foundation (LEF). While Wahid Baloch was trade union activist in industrial city of Hub and by profession he was a driver.

Abdul Salam, 29, was working as coordinator on peace, democracy and trade union issues. He was also elected central finance secretary of the NTUF in 2007. He was the secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan, Karachi chapter for 2007-2009. Comrade Abdul Salam had initiated number of awareness activities for trade union members, young students and political activists. He conducted six regular monthly study circles on social, economic and political issues in different localities of working class. He was the guiding force behind his last initiative, a six-month training course on labour laws for new and young trade union activists with a view to build a team of committed workersto represent workers in labour courts.

He was on the of editorial board of weekly Mazdoor Jeddojehad for two years. He was also a regular contributor in respect of articles to Mazdoor Jeddojehad in the Urdu and Pashto languages, and was the main source for the LEF’s monthly Newsletter. He had translated a Pashto novel of Noor Mohammed Tarakai into Urdu. He was a Pashto poet of good repute and organiser of the “Jurs”, a progressive Pashto literary forum in Karachi. He belonged to working-class family and started his career as textile worker in Al Karam textile mill, where he was expelled from job nine years ago because of trade union activities. He challenged the management in court and won the case in October 2009.

Najma Khanum, 38, was a social activist and was the former local body's councillor of the area, mainly comprising of working class people. She had been a staff member of the LEF since 2003. She was the organiser of home-based women workers. She was the leader of her community and always at the forefront of all political, trade union and woman rights rallies and demonstrations. She formed a women's theatre group for young girls with the title of “Apna Theatre”, which means “Our Theatre”. Their performances on May Day, Women's Day and on other important events were always an important part of the program. She was also a former member of Pakistan national women's field hockey squad. She served the LPP as women's secretary of Karachi chapter for two years from 2007 to 2009. She had been running the home-based women workers' cooperative in Yousuf Ghoth for four years.

Rehana Kausar, 26, was one of the youngest staff members of the LEF. She started work as a part-time teacher at an adult literacy centre in Gadap town and become social mobiliser in 2006. She was very energetic and committed to the cause and a great fighter. She was also an active member of the LPP.

Wahid Baloch, 40, was a trade union activist and was sacked from his job by the Bawani Air Products manufacturing company three years ago, where he worked as a driver. His only crime was trying to form a union in the factory. No factory was inclined to give him job in the Hub city industrial area due to his union-related activities. He was involved in all activities of the National Trade Union Federation and partly worked as a driver with the NTUF.

All the comrades were from very poor and working-class families.

Comrade Abdul Salam leaves behind two little kids, a two and four year old, and a young widow. Salam was the only one working. Najma leaves behind three children but to some extent grown up, from 13 to 20 years old, all are studying. Her husband has job with very little earnings, living in a rented house. Driver Wahid Baloch leaves behind six young kids, the eldest is only 14. Wahid's was the only the source of income to run the home. His old father and mother also live with his family in a rented house. While Rehana was not yet married, she was one of the nine sisters and brothers and one of the two breadwinners among them. She was also the only hope for her aged bedridden mother and father.

We as representatives of the LEF, NTUF and LPP jointly pledge to do our best to cater the needs of their families and to work hard for the accomplishment of the cause for which they sacrificed their lives. In this respect we need your help. We appeal to the entire circle of our friends, comrades and well wishers to come forward to show solidarity with the families of our shining comrades.

We are launching this appeal to all of you to support us for raising 3,000,000 Pak Rupees (US$35,300) for the permanent wellbeing of the four families. Our plan is to deposit fixed amounts in bank saving accounts in the name of their immediate family members so that they get a regular monthly income and an increased amount after a certain period of time.

In joint meetings of the LLP, NTUF and LEF comrades on December 19 in Karachi we have promised to contribute PRs605,000 (US$7120) in response to this appeal.

Your contribution will accommodate the financial needs of families of our departed comrades, strengthen the confidence in the movement and further the cause working people of Pakistan.

The Labour Education Foundation is a social organisation set up in 1993; its main work is to strengthen trade unions in Pakistan. It has done great work to unionise many unorganised workers and strengthen trade unions, especially the National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan.

You can send your contributions to the bank account of LEF as per following details.

A/C Title: Labour Education Foundation

A/C Number: 01801876

Swift: ALFHPKKALDA

Bank: BANK ALFALAH LTD., LDA PLAZA Branch, KASHMIR ROAD, LAHORE, PAKISTAN

Looking forward for your encouraging responses,

Farooq Tariq, spokesperson Labour Party Pakistan,

Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary NTUF

Khalid Mahmood, director LEF.

[Labour Party Pakistan, 40-Abbot Road Lahore, Pakistan. Tel: 92 42 6315162. Fax: 92 42 6271149. Mobile: 92 300 8411945. Web: http://www.laborpakistan.org, http://www.jeddojuhd.com/.]

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