Pakistani unions demand justice for textile workers

01.02.2013

Outraged by the news that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf called for murder charges to be dropped against the brothers who own a Karachi garment factory where 259 workers were killed, unions in Pakistan protested on 30 January 2013.

The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), an IndustriALL affiliate, and other labour rights organizations have filed petitions against the owners of Ali Enterprises, the garment factory in Karachi where almost 300 workers were killed in a devastating fire on 12 September 2012. (http://www.industriall-union.org/horror-in-pakistan-after-300-workers-die) As it is a case of loss of life, the State initiates the legal actions, NTUF and others have filed petitions, which are being heard by the Sindh High Court.

Mr. Ashraf intervened in the factory fire case on 29 December in an address to Karachi business leaders where he recommended the murder charges be withdrawn against the owners, brothers Arshad and Shahid Bhaila, who have been in jail since September and face trial. Two weeks after the Prime Minster’s comments, a senior police official applied with the court to have the charge dropped.

The decision on which charges will go forward rests with the Sindh High Court. As there are complainants and interested parties, the Court has to hear all the petitioners in the matter before delivering its judgement. If under pressure, the Court delivers a ruling modifying the charges, it is again open to the petitioners to challenge the Sindh High Court ruling in Appellate Court, which NTUF and other labour rights organizations are already contemplating.