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When will laborers get their rights?

by Areeba Gul
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On the occasion of Labor Day, the government of Pakistan has announced a public holiday, but we must also evaluate why this day is celebrated and what issues the working class faces in our society. On May 1, 1986, laborers in Chicago sacrificed their lives and struggled like slaves to work sixteen-hour days, which led to the adoption of an eight-hour workday. In the 19th century, laborers in industrialized countries achieved fundamental rights through continuous struggle and sacrifice. Before that, the ruling classes and laboring classes would raise their voices for their rights but be constantly hung or imprisoned. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, gave laborers the status of Allah’s beloved and glorified the greatness of labor by personally working on the construction of Masjid-e-Nabwi and worshiping it. Today, in the 21st century, in the era of technology, education, competition, and global economics, it is the responsibility of the state in Pakistan according to the preamble of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to end the exploitative system in society and ensure constitutional rights in accordance with Article 11, the abolition of child labor and forced labor in society in accordance with Article 14, the protection of human dignity in accordance with Article 9, the provision of basic necessities of life for livelihood in accordance with Article 25, and complete assurance against discriminatory behavior, particularly towards women, based on gender, color, and race in the workplace in accordance with Article 25. Additionally, it is the policy of the state in accordance with Articles 37 and 38 to provide workers with healthy working conditions, reasonable wages, social protection, and participation in society.

The Pakistani government has pledged to protect and improve the rights of workers through the ratification of important conventions by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations, of which it is a longstanding member. Under these agreements, the government has a global responsibility to ensure compliance with the country’s laws. However, it is regrettable that the feudal and capitalist systems in the country continue to strengthen day by day, leading to widespread unemployment among young people, depriving the poor of education for their children by granting education and business status to the landed and wealthy and allowing the vast businesses of important families to establish housing schemes overnight on agricultural land, while the lower classes cannot even build a three-story house. Due to the ineffectiveness of labor laws, workers are exposed to unsafe working conditions, low wages, social exclusion, child labor, and abusive treatment of women, which have not yet been eradicated from society.

The country’s successive governments have abandoned the policy of national economic self-reliance and instead have surrendered the nation’s economy to the IMF and World Bank, rather than freeing it from foreign and domestic debt. As a result, 66% of tax revenue is paid in debt interest. Workers demand reasonable wages and guaranteed social protection in old age, illness, and accidents, as well as respect for labor in society. The working class of the country celebrates this international day while strongly demanding the implementation of such development-oriented economic and social policies, which guarantee the fundamental rights of the poor people of Pakistan under the constitution, and fulfill Pakistan’s international responsibilities under ILO conventions. Safeguarding the basic rights of workers and in accordance with the commands of Allama Muhammad Iqbal and the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan should establish an Islamic welfare state that eliminates poverty, unemployment, ignorance, disease, and the vast difference between rich and poor, and puts an end to the feudal culture in society, and bestows upon the workers the status of Allah’s beloved.

To achieve this goal, hard workers will have to make their unity stronger and make their efforts successful because their rights are not granted automatically, but rather they have to be taken. In the country, 80% of taxpayers are salaried employees, while the majority of the country’s capitalists, landlords, traders, and some politicians pay taxes in name only. The demand of time is to collect taxes from them and ensure the provision of facilities for the increasing poverty, widespread youth unemployment, the prosperity of workers, and the education and healthcare of children. Not only legal justice but social and economic justice should be made available to workers and the poor in the country.

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