Faisalabad - Pakistani Christians and Muslims came together on May Day to demand protection for their jobs, fair wages, union rights, a safer work place for women and an end to forced and child labour. In Faisalabad (Punjab) and in many other Pakistani cities, rallies and marches were held to celebrate International Labour Day.
The event provided an opportunity for people of different religious and social backgrounds to demand jobs. Trade unions, professional and business associations, political and social activities sponsored dozens of events, including a forum by the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) on how to "Resolve the problems of the working class."
In Faisalabad, a long march organised by the Peace and Human Development Foundation (PHDF) started off at the city's press club and ended at the Clock Tower bringing together people from various trade unions, students and social activists.
"The government seems to be helpless towards overcoming years-long crisis of poverty, inflation, unemployment and extremism," PHDF director Suneel Malik told AsiaNews. Everywhere, there are the signs of the decay. "Workers' rights are at the bottom of the priority list of the government".
For women's rights activist Shazia George, "women workers suffer discrimination in terms of low wages, long working hours and harassment at the workplaces in Pakistan".
The demonstration (pictured) brought together many Muslims who, with Christians, marched through the streets of the city.
March leaders said that only by uniting their forces and intents could workers' rights and interests be protected, especially for the weaker and needier segments of the population.
For Ashiq Chaudhry, a Muslim railway worker, "unity" and "organised struggle", not isolated initiatives, can guarantee workers' rights. At the same time, the "privatisation of state institution must be stopped."
Mussadaq Hussain, a Muslim teacher, agrees. For him, Pakistani workers should learn from the struggles of "international movements" that developed to defend workers and the needy.
Finally, women's rights activist Nazia Sardar lamented the fact that women in Pakistan remain "invisible and neglected". Because their work tends to be informal and unregulated, it is undervalued to the point that "it is not even seen as work and so it is not recorded in labour statistics."