2008: Pakistani Police Attack Peaceful Demonstration at Naveena Textile
On 30 July 2008, most of Naveena’s employees, and various labour leaders and activists gathered outside the Naveena Textile Mills in Lahore, to demand that management stop paying substandard wages, which often fall below the legal minimum of RS. 6,000 and observe Pakistan’s labour laws and international labour standards.
In response, the police reportedly directed a violent attack against the peaceful demonstrators with batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Six demonstrators were arrested and detained for burning tires, blocking roads, and attacking a police officer. The detained included President Taimur Rehman of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) in Punjab, Rafaqat Ali Azad, Muhammad Ilyas from the All-Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF), CMKP Lahore District Committee (DC) member Muhammad Ali Jan and Adam Shah and Bilal, both workers at the Naveena Textile Mills. The six have since been released, but charges have been filed against them. Naveena responded to the demonstration by locking out 300 of its employees.
In August 2008, the CCC responded, urging supporters to send letters to Pakistan’s prime minister, secretary of labour, among others, to demand that all charges against the six be dropped and that Naveena’s employees be reinstated and ensure that they all receive at least the legal minimum wage in accordance with the law. The CCC also demanded that workers be offered permanent contracts and that Naveena deal with the issue of forced overtime.
The CCC emphasised that Pakistan’s Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which have been ratified by Pakistan all recognise the fundamental rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly. The ability of workers to collectively express their grievances and their right to consult and engage in a dialogue with employers is a fundamental part of a just and democratic society and essential for harmonious industrial relations.
Although the six were released, charges against them were still pending although the information remains sketchy. But authorities never responded to the CCC’s many follow-up emails requesting updates. Ultimately, the decision was made to close its case.