Veteran labour unionist Karamat Ali passes away in Karachi

Published June 20, 2024
Karamat Ali, a founding member of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, speaks to the media at the Karachi Press Club.—White Star/File
Karamat Ali, a founding member of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, speaks to the media at the Karachi Press Club.—White Star/File

Veteran labour unionist Karamat Ali died on Thursday morning in Karachi after prolonged illness, his nephew Abbas Haider confirmed to Dawn.com.

According to Haider, the joint director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), Ali was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Karachi.

His funeral prayers will be held at 7pm today at the Shuhada-i-Karbala Imambargah in Karachi’s Ancholi area, after which he will be laid to rest in the Wadi-i-Hussain Graveyard, Haider added.

Ali, aged 78, was one of the founding members of Piler and was serving as its executive director.

According to Piler’s website, Ali was also a founding member of “various local and regional networks like Pakistan Peace Coalition, Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy and South Asia Labour Forum”.

The Karachi Literature Festival’s (KLF) website describes Ali, author of the book Raahguzar Tau Dekho, as having played an important role in the labour movement of the 1970s.

“Karamat Ali has been a key activist in the peace process between India and Pakistan and in the South Asian Region as a whole,” the KLF said, adding that he was “felicitated with the Didi Nirmala Deshpande South Asian Award for peace and justice in 2013”.

‘Tireless advocate for labour rights’

Condolences poured in as soon as reports of his death circulated on social media.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah expressed his deep grief on the labour activist’s demise.

He prayed for Ali’s high ranks and for the bereaved family, a statement issued by his spokesperson Abdulrasheed Channa said.

Former president Arif Alvi, calling Ali his “very dear friend”, said: “What a loss.”

“The labour movement has lost ground to naked exploitative capitalism. I wish there were more like him to ensure the rights of the struggling, hard-working workers of the world,” he said in a post on X.

Alvi called the Piler executive director an “outstanding labour activist, author, ever smiling and humble man” who “represented Pakistan in international conferences as a very well-informed person to be proud of, was a treasure of knowledge, and an embodiment of pain for the struggle of the labour classes”.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said she was “grieved to hear of the passing of old friend” Ali.

“He was a tireless advocate for the dispossessed and the vulnerable in Pakistan, and a strong voice for regional peace,” she recalled on X.

Rehman said Ali’s “commitment to labour rights and social justice has left an indelible mark on our community”, adding, “His loss will be felt deeply.”

Former senator Afrasiab Khattak termed Ali a “tireless peace activist”, recognising his “huge contribution” to educating labourers about their rights.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said Ali’s “contribution to labour rights in Pakistan and in the wider South Asian region will not be easily matched”.

In a statement on X, the HRCP recalled Ali as a “staunch advocate for the right to collective bargaining and social security for workers”, stressing that he was “committed to the idea that trade unions should be equipped with education and training to function more effectively”.

Nasir Mansoor, the deputy secretary general of the National Trade Union Federation, said, “The labour movement has lost its most respected leader.”

Author Nadeem Farooq Paracha said the Piler leader had for decades struggled for the rights of the working classes.

“He was always willing to impart the vast reserves of knowledge that he had stored in his heart and mind. We will miss him dearly,” Paracha said on X.

Journalist Ziaur Rehman said he was “deeply saddened”, also calling Ali a “tireless advocate for labour rights”.

Sindh Tourism Minister Zulfiqar Ali Shah also joined those conveying their condolences, stating, “His services rendered will always be remembered.”

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