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Pakistan: A credible alternative to the parties of the rich

Mian Abdul Qayum.

By Farooq Tariq

On April 10, 2010, Mian Abdul Qayum, a labour leader in Faisalabad, submitted his nomination papers as candidate for the Punjab Assembly constituency 63 by-election on May 15. The other candidates are from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) and the National Muslim League. We need your support to contest this by-election.

The seat was declared vacant when Mian Asif Ajmal resigned after, during a Supreme Court hearing, it became clear he has submitted bogus degrees to the election commission in 2008 to prove that he is a graduate. Asif Ajmal is an industrialist and owner of a textile factory. He was arrested by police in 2008 after he and his goons fired on workers of his textile factory when they were demanding wage increases and union rights. One worker was killed and more than a dozen seriously injured. He spent nearly one and half months in jail at but was released using his political influence among police and courts. He was elected in the February 2008 election, nominated by the Pakistan Muslim League Q, he later joined PMLN. Mian Nawaz Sharif has nominated Asif Ajaml to contest this seat on the ticket of the PMLN, a party that claims to defend democratic traditions and the fight for an independent judiciary.

The Pakistan Peoples Party's Punjab president, Rana Aftab, is once again contesting the election after he was defeated in 2008 general election. He has been member of Punjab Assembly two times earlier. He is a rich farmer and an advocate by profession and die-hard PPP activist.

Amjad Warraich, a former member of parliament and leader of a new Muslim League under his leadership, has also announced that he will contest this seat. His wife is member of national assembly and his brother is in Punjab Assembly. There is no end of gluttony within this family.

The Labour Party Pakistan has decided to contest this election to challenge the hegemony of the big capitalist and feudal parties. We have not much experience in parliamentary politics. Parliamentary elections in Pakistan favour the rich. Rich politicians spend millions in violation of the election commission laws and no one takes notice. Despite this, we have decided to fight back.

Mian Abdul Qayum

Mian Abdul Qayum is chairperson of the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM) and a member of LPP federal committee. He is a leader of textile and power loom workers. He is the founding member of LQM, a organisation that has led many struggles by textile workers in Faisalabad and the surrounding area. More than 10,000 joined when the LQM organised a mass workers' rally on the eve of the Labour Party Pakistan's fifth congress on January 29, 2010, at famous Dhobi Ghat ground of Faisalabad.

Himself a textile worker, he has been able to organise LQM in every area of Faisalabad because of its militant actions and solidarity with other movements. At present, he works full time for the LQM. Workers of Faisalabad textile sector pay his expenses. His partner Shamim Qayum is also an activist of the LQM and spends time organising women workers.

Mian Abdul Qayum has been arrested several times during the last few years during the struggle of the textile workers. He spent 28 days, along 24 other power looms workers, in Jhang jail when he led a 20-day strike that resulted in a complete victory of power loom workers. Since the LQM was established more than 10,000 power looms workers have got social security cards. There was none when the LQM was formed in 2003. It has been able to help workers win wage increases, release blocked payments, organise new trade unions in several factories and restore general a labour dignity.

The LQM is an independent labour organisation supported by several left political currents and social organisations and movements. The Labour Education Foundation, a radical social organisation, has helped the LQM in training, workshops and organising workers. Most of its leaders are members of Labour Party Pakistan. The LQM's formation was a departure from the traditional trade unions that have been unable to grow during the last decade. It is a community-based labour organisation and not just a workplace organisation. The LQM has combined activism at the workplace and at community level. It has formalised many informal sector workers. It has revived the real workers' tradition of picket lines at workplaces and at the homes of bosses.

The LQM strategy to press the demands of the workers varies from case to case. It has held hunger strike camps, public rallies, seminars, workshops, Gherao (pickets) of factories, bosses' homes, police stations and the labour department, demonstrations and many other forms of protests. It has held very militant but peaceful struggles.

Mian Abdul Qayum's decision to contest election against the parties of the rich is an important step in promotion of working-class politics. It will pave the way for more independent actions of the working class not only in the parliamentary field but also outside it.

Our election program

Although this is a Punjab Assembly by-election, we want to contest the election on a revolutionary program with transitional demands. In a meeting on April 9 at the Labour Qaumi Movement in Faisalabad to discuss the priorities of the election campaign, it was decided to take up three issues forcefully. They are price hikes, labour rights and load shedding of electricity and gas. One is directly linked with the lives of the workers and the other is linked for the survival of the local power loom industry and infrastructure. There has been a massive price hike because of the conditions imposed on IMF and World Bank loans. We will take up the issue of neoliberal agenda and the role of imperialism and multinational companies. We will raise the issue of the right to form trade unions and fight for workers' right to a decent life.

Importance of this election

This election has been announced at a time when the PPP government is implementing the neoliberal agenda. Price hikes are out of control. Important public sector institutions are for sale. Infrastructure is collapsing. The electricity load shedding last more than 12 hours a day. Most of the power looms are closed because of the shortage of electricity and thousands of workers are laid off temporarily. The workers are very angry and there is a possibility of a huge blacklash against the PPP government at this election.

This is an area where workers have gathered in their thousands at the call of Labour Qaumi Movement for the defence of workers' rights and better job conditions. The PPP Punjab president is in the contest. So workers have a choice to the policies of PPP. The PPP and PMLN have put up candidate against each other unlike the previous by-election. The PMLN has nominated a person who has been involved in shootings, forgery of the educational certificates and other criminal activities. Workers may reject both big parties in this area.

A decent vote or a victory of a textile worker in this by-election can generate a lot of enthusiasm among the working class in Pakistan for an alternative to the parties of the capitalists and feudal elite.

This is the first parliamentary election that LPP has contested after 2002 general elections. The LPP has done good work in the streets against the military dictatorship, for workers' rights and peasants' right to own land. The LPP can make a difference in this election if it gets the support from its friends.

What can you do?

We need your support in different fields. We have not much time left. The election is on May 15.

  1. Please help us financially.
  2. Please take off time work to go the constituency. PP 63 covers the areas next to Faisalabad airport, Sadhar, Thekiwala, Pansera on Jhang Road. Please come and help in the election campaign to go to door to door.
  3. Please help us with transport. If you have a car, small van or jeep, please lend it to us with a driver for at least a week before the election campaign. We have to cover a lot distance and we need a lot of transport.
  4. Please help print literature, posters and leaflets. If you can get it printed, we can provide you the text and designs.
  5. Please help us in designing banners and help in printing on cloth.
  6. Please give suggestions for the promotion of our election symbol, APPLE, the LPP election symbol. We have taken a peaceful sign unlike the PPP and PMLN, which have very violent election symbols.
  7. Please take a day off on May 15 to help on the election day.
  8. Please suggest any other ways to help us.
  9. Please contact me for any help and I will put you in contact with right persons involved in that area.

The Labour Party Pakistan appeals to all its supporters, friends, comrades and members to come forward to help in the campaign of Mian Abdul Qayum.

[Farooq Tariq is spokesperson of the Labour Party Pakistan. Phone 030 0841 1945. Labour Party Pakistan, 40-Abbot Road, Lahore, Pakistan. Outside Pakistan: telephone 92 42 6315162. Fax 92 42 6271149. Mobile 92 300 841 1945. Email labour_party@yahoo.com. Visit http://www.laborpakistan.org or http://www.jeddojuhd.com.]

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