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‘Industrialists, feudal lords have taken root in our democracy’

Updated August 13, 2017
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani speaks at the event on Saturday.─Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani speaks at the event on Saturday.─Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan Mian Raza Rabbani has said that while it is true that the people of Pakistan feel part of a free and sovereign state happy to be celebrating our 70th Independence Day this year, “we still need to understand that we are not really a free and sovereign people”.

He said this while speaking to workers and representatives of various labour organisations on day one of the two-day Sindh Labour Conference organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) on Saturday.

“This ‘freedom’ seems like it was only an illusion when we gained it from the British in 1947. For in the place of our British masters we now have a big black snake stealing all our rights, and making us its subjects,” he said.

“This snake collaborates with various institutions, feudal lords and industrialists to keep the poor people under its control. To make itself stronger, it also joins forces with international economic unions and other global powers putting the entire working class in its debt,” he said.

Even elected members are unable to address the real issues, says Senate chief

The Senate chairman pointed out that students, the labour force, scholars and intellectuals happened to be the strong forces which shook military dictator Ayub Khan and then Ziaul Haq’s regimes. “And so it was decided that student unions and progressive unions not be allowed to enter universities and colleges. And yet the right-wing was welcomed at these places of learning, giving birth to extremism,” he added.

“Next the snake went after the trade union movement in Pakistan. Here industrialists joined the big snake as did the foreign investors. They said that trade unions were a waste of time. Then came the Act 27-B which helped ban the workers’ union in Pakistan International Airlines. It was all part of the plan,” he said.

“What was left then?” he said. “Progressive writers such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib and Jaun Elia. To end the progressive thought they closed down the coffee houses where these great intellectuals met to exchange ideas. Tell me now. Is there anyone in our generation who even comes close to the calibre of these thinkers? So this is how free thought was also squashed,” he said.

“In our country now, democracy can come to assemblies but even there the elected members are unable to address the real issues because quite frankly the industrialists, big investors and the feudal lords have taken root in our democracy,” he said. “I say this because votes are bought now and the common man doesn’t have the means or money to get elected to the assemblies,” he added.

“Therefore when a worker dies or is burnt alive in a factory which is on fire there may be a lot of noise but at the end of the day the investor and his big business will always get away with it. It is all due to our wonderful system,” he said.

Coming to the Constitution, he said it talks about providing justice to all. “But what can one say about that when there is one kind of justice for the elite, another kind for feudal lords and industrialists and yet another kind of justice for the commoner,” he said.

Meanwhile, the conference was attended by activists and major figures in the cause for justice such as retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chohan, Supreme Court Bar Association chief Rashid A. Razvi, Anis Haroon, Abdul Latif Nizamani, Liaquat Sahi, Baloch activist Lala Sultan Khan, Aziz Abbasi, Bushra Arain, Habibuddin Junaidi, Saeed Baloch, Manzoor Razi, Ghulam Fatima from Punjab, Khursheed Ahmed, Karamat Ali and Zulfiqar Shah of Piler, who also spoke.

The conference will conclude on Sunday.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2017