|Not Defeated, Only Strengthened|
|Written by PTUDC|
|Wednesday, 05 April 2006 09:58|
An article on the rallies and demonstrations after Shah's assassination in 1995.
Pakistan workers protest against murder
On Wednesday the 15th February, a nation-wide protest at the murder of Arif Shah was launched in Pakistan. Despite the difficulties caused by the period of Ramadan, the comrades of The Struggle produced a special issue of the paper and a very good poster, in English and Urdu, 10,000 of which were put up all over the country.
On the day of the demonstration, a large number of workers from 25 to 30 trade unions
converged on Lahore in buses, trolleys, and different vehicles, with banners and flags. For three hours, the 8,000 strong demonstration blocked the main road from Nasir Bagh to the Parliament (Assembly Chowk). Then all the workers gathered in a rally opposite the Punjab Assembly (Provincial Parliament House)
The unions carried different banners, with slogans such as “Arif’s blood means revolution”. “Arif Shah, we promise that we will continue your fight” .“Arif Shah’s way is our way”. “Death to Arif Shah’s murderers”. “Arif, we promise we will continue the fight against privatisation”. “Stop child labour. Stop bonded labour”. “End cruel laws against women”, and “Down with the state government of Sheikhupura”. 250 marchers carried The Struggle’s poster. The main speakers at the rally were Shahida Jabeen, Manzor Ahmed, Mahmood Butt, Sajida, Dastigir Mahboob, Arif Shah’s brother Anwar Shah, Abdul Qadir Shaheen (president People’s Labour Bureau, PPP Punjab), Aslam Wafi (trade union leader from Faisalabad), Shafi (trade union leader from Fauji Sugar Mill).
The signs of rage could be clearly seen in the faces of the workers, who were determined to take revenge for the brutal murder of their leader. They were in very aggressive mood as they shouted slogans with one voice and shook their fists.
Also important was the role of women in this demonstration. The police tried to manhandle the demonstrators, to clear the road. But the women workers in the front ranks pushed the police back. The attempts of the police to keep the traffic running were frustrated by the sheer volume of demonstrators. The demonstration was highly disciplined, the leaders marching at the head, and a line of motorbikes on either side to protect the marchers.
Although the main demonstration was in Lahore, there were also smaller rallies and protest
actions in other areas - Hyderabad, Karachi and Thata (Sind), Rawalpindi, Sadiqabad (Punjab), Peshawar (Northwest Frontier), and Quetta (Baluchistan). 250 trade unionists attended the rally in Sadiqabad. In Quetta, the workers held a demonstration during working hours, starting at 11am.
It is particularly important to point out that there were protests by the trade unions amongst the oppressed nationalities (Baluchistan, Sind, Northwest Frontier) against the assassination of a Punjabi workers leader. This is the first time in decades that such solidarity between the workers of all Pakistan has been achieved. From this fact alone, we can see that Arif’s death was not in
vain. We can also be proud of the genuine spirit of revolutionary internationalism is being built in Pakistan, establishing a new tradition, capable of uniting Baluchis, Sindis, Punjabis and Pushtoons in struggle.
The demonstrations on the 15th was only the first shot in the campaign. A new protest has been called for Wednesday the 22nd of February. This will take the form of a massive demonstration in Arif Shah’s home town, Sheikhupura. This was announced at the rallies on the 15th, and the workers are preparing for a big turn-out. Murtaza Bhutto (leader of the PPP opposition) has promised to attend.
The Struggle continues!