LABOUR leaders have a valiant past in Pakistan. They fought for the rights of the working class and along the way endured hardships and incarceration. Their families suffered economic ruin, but they continued their struggle and never gave up or compromised. This day 26 years ago, one such soul, Usman Ghani, lost his life, leaving behind him a void in the struggle for labour rights that has not been filled to date.
Usman Ghani was a fine person who was among the strongest opponents of capitalism and feudalism. He started his professional life with a job in a commercial bank, and it was not long before he was elected to head the workers’ union there.
The efforts he put in for the rights of his fellow workers remain unforgettable. He was first arrested in 1973 for not compromising on the rights and demands of the employees. He was addressing a protest rally against the bank management when the police climbed onto the stage and whisked him away to the central prison in Karachi.
Soon, he rose from being the representative of a single-centre union to a prominent trade unionist on the national scene. Keeping with the times he lived in, he became a political activist as well but his focus remained on ensuring the rights of the labourers.
It is some testimony to his commitment to the cause that he found himself imprisoned not only during the Zia regime and the government of the Nawaz faction of Pakistan Muslim League, but also during the rule of his own party, the Pakistan People’s Party. He just could not bring himself to make compromises when his principles were at stake.
On Sept 17, 1995, he left his residence at Chanesar Goth for his office. Unknown, ruthless assassins attacked him, bringing his life to an abrupt end when he was just 45 years of age.
Though the man is long gone, his memory and the sacrifices he made for the workers are still fresh in minds. His efforts for the restoration of labour rights and democracy in the country will live in history.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021