ISLAMABAD, Oct 26: Who is the 99 per cent in Pakistan? This Tuesday, the newly created Anti-Capitalist Committee organised a rally to represent the ignored and poor 99 per cent of Pakistan who have been oppressed by a greedy capitalist system.
The Anti-Capitalist 'Occupy Islamabad' movement was initiated to show solidarity with the international Occupy movements that have broken over in America as well as many European countries in the last two months. These are movements that aim to get rid of the unfair capitalistic world order that pervades the world today, for a more just system.
The rally started from Aabpara and progressed to World Bank where the speakers addressed the members of the rally. People from all walks of life were present, from students to labourers, activists and philanthropists. A number of groups supported this initiative including the Railway Worker's Union, PTCL Muttahida Workers Alliance, Pak PWD Labour Union, Berozgar Naujawan Tehreek, students from Quaid-i-Azam University and other NGOs.
Speakers at the conference highlighted the same message that 'Occupy' movements all over the world have espoused. Capitalism encourages injustice, greed and accumulation of wealth and is inherently flawed and unjust.
Farzana Bari who was one of the organisers at the rally said: “The fruits of working class's hard work go to the capitalist class while the distressed in the working class are committing suicide today because they are unable to meet the needs of their families and their children.”
The attendants of the rally shouted slogans demanding for the IMF and The World Bank to leave because their loans have only helped maintain the status quo and ruined Pakistan's economy. No good has come out of them.
One of the slogans berated the burden the military budget puts on the common Pakistani. Ms Bari explained: “Army helps entrench the capitalistic system by supporting the status quo and it is taking a very large percentage of the budget so nothing is left for the poor.”
Another thing the protesters were vehemently against was privatisation of national commercial assets like Pakistan International Airlines, Postal services, Railway etc.
Comrade Azam, a representative of the Railway Union, said the privatisation of PTCL, Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation, cost its 18,000 employees their jobs while the Railways has laid off 70,000 workers.
Although, privatisation is done in the name of capitalism and free market incentives, none of these industries are doing any better. The solution to inefficient functioning therefore is not privatisation but better management. Improvements can be made without sacrificing these industries to the cancerous system of capitalism.
Some of the most interesting participants of the rally were members of Home Base Women Workers, who do outsourced work at home.
Speaking for them Talat Rubab said: “These women are exploited by the capitalistic system â€“ they work on an informal level and have no rights. They are not even recognised as workers. Their labour earns big profits to their informal employer but very little for themselves.”
Although the message of the movement is sound and substantial, the participation at the rally was dismal. When asked if this movement will catch on and become much bigger, Ms. Aaliya of National Student Federation was not too optimistic.
She said: “Here it is organisers who are putting up a protest and trying to increase people's awareness in an effort to give them an outlet for their frustrations. There (in America), it was the people themselves who started and became part of the movement.
The difference is in political consciousness.”
It is this gap, she thought, that will take a long time before it can be overcome.