Friday, September 14, 2012

Fate of Afghan refugees discussed: Tripartite Commission

The Express Tribune News
Delegations from Afghanistan and Pakistan along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continued their discussions in Istanbul at the 21st Tripartite Commission on the future of around 1.66 million Afghan refugees presently living in Pakistan. According to a press release, The Tripartite Agreement is due to expire at the end of this year, and all parties feel that a voluntary repatriation process with an agreed mechanism is vital for these vulnerable people. Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Jamahir Anwary briefed the delegations on the progress already made in the four months since the endorsement of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees in Geneva in May 2012. Pakistan Minister for States and Frontier Regions Shaukat Ullah informed that his ministry was presently holding inter-ministerial deliberations. He added that they were reviewing options for the future national policy for Afghan refugees, which will be considered shortly by his government. The delegations expressed optimism that their respective governments would favorably review the recommendations drawn up by this meeting. UNHCR representative in Islamabad, Neil Wright who also chaired the Tripartite Commission meeting said that UNHCR supported an extension of the Tripartite agreement which would expire on 31 December 2012 along with the validity of the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards held by Afghan refugees in Pakistan. He added that UNHCR wanted to ensure the ongoing protection for Afghan refugees. Referring to the well-being of Afghan refugees, he added that UNHCR and the international community had not faced such a serious challenge in the past 30 years. The meeting between the three parties came just before the first Quadripartite Steering Committee meeting to be held in Geneva on October 3, 2012, at which progress on the implementation of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan refugees will be reviewed.

Sindh CM had barred Labour Minister from inspection of factories.

Sharmila Farooqui has said that Sindh CM had barred Labour Minister from inspection of factories.
While talking to Dunya News, she claimed that Sindh chief minister had stopped the labour minister from inspection of factories. She said that round about 10,000 factories are being run in the metropolis but there is no check and balance on them. That is why such horrible tragedies have become hallmark of the day. She said that if the government wants to keep law and order and assures security of lives and property of the workers, it should implement rules and regulations in true spirit. Earlier, Sindh Labour Minister Ameer Nawaz has claimed that Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah had stopped him from inspecting and taking action against factories violating labour rules in the province. Ameer Nawab, who has just resigned from his post, gave his remarks after the fire in Karachi factory took hundreds of lives. Apparently, Sindh followed footsteps of Punjab, which too banned labour inspections, back in 2003, following which the Sindh CM did the same. While speaking to the media, the former provincial minister said that he was directed to drop the cases against factory owners. He said they started action after receiving number of complains but failed to bring the culprits before the justice. He stated, “We tried to persuade the CM that the cases have been referred to court, and cannot be withdrawn. But the CM expressed his anger over the operation. Since then we stopped the inspections. How can we continue with them when the chief executive of a province asks us to stop an inquiry and withdraw the cases?” He further said that factories were supposed to be inspected once a year before Musharraf came to power. During chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim’s time under the Musharraf set-up, the rule was that before an inspection, labour officials had to serve an employer one month’s notice about when they would be coming. He added, “This refutes the actual purpose of an inspection. I had asked CM Qaim Ali Shah to revisit the cabinet’s decision but nothing happened”. The death toll of the fire in a Karachi garment factory reached 298 with several dozen workers still unaccounted for and presumably dead in the basement that could not be penetrated by recovery teams till the filing of this report. The worst disaster of the country has once again raised fresh concerns about safety at workplaces and also captured the attention of the president, the Sindh High Court and other government officials and departments as well as the local and international media.

Karachi factory fire – not a “national” tragedy but product of class exploitation

by Lal Khan
The horrific factory fire at a Karachi garments and clothing enterprise where 289 workers, men, women and children, perished and hundreds were injured with severe burn wounds in an inferno in a caged factory with sealed gates is not an exception but the norm for the proletariat in Pakistan. It lays bare the conditions in which they are forced to work.On the same day in another shoe factory in Lahore more than 25 workers were burnt to death and scores maimed. Such incidents are a daily routine across the country. The only reason that the media had to highlight this tragedy was because of the enormity of the calamity and the very large number of the victims in just one incident. In Lahore alone there are eight thousand factories that are vulnerable to such catastrophes. There are thousands more in Karachi and other cities of Pakistan that are susceptible to such a fate. The plight of the workers was described by one of the survivors of the Lahore factory inferno, “Everyone has to die one day. People like me will die of starvation if they don’t work.” There is now a deafening din, a hue and cry in the media by the political elite, the business tycoons, the bosses of the state and the apologists of capitalism in the intelligentsia. Torrents of crocodile tears flow from these representatives of the system who have amassed obscene wealth and live in hedonic luxury. If one compares their lives to the conditions of ordinary workers in Pakistan it would seems that they are living on other planet. The analysts of the corporate media are churning out diverse theories about the causes of this gruesome disaster and playing the blame game where everybody and every department is being blamed except for the real perpetrator of this devastation – rotten Pakistani capitalism itself. All this is done for a specific purpose: to divert the attention of the workers from the real perpetrator to secondary and auxiliary causes and criminals. The actual question this harrowing incident poses is the following. Can the capitalists sustain the fabulous rates of profit they are extracting from the workers and at the same time grant living wages, pensions, health benefits, proper safety conditions such as fire-proofing the shop floors, building a modern infrastructure for industrial production and decent conditions of work? The answer is a big no! The Pakistani ruling class came late onto the arena of history after “independence” with the world market already dominated by the imperialist powers that imposed an economic and technological stranglehold. Their state never had the capacity to build a modern infrastructure or carry out the tasks of the industrial revolution. Therefore to attain their rates of profits they had to exploit labour to the nth degree. But even that was not enough, they had to steal resources, evade taxes and plunder the state to fulfil their insatiable lust for money. The state in return became a beneficiary of all this extortion and involved itself in business. It is not an accident that the subsidiary of the Pakistan Army is the largest entrepreneur with an investment of $27 billion in the economy. And this is just in the formal economy which is only about one third of Pakistan’s total real economy. Even the lowest tiers of the state indulged in this orgy of bribery and corruption. Hence, to blame the inspectors of industrial safety, the police and other departments of negligence in reality is a cynical farce to absolve the top criminal elite and a whole system based on corruption. The fact is that these lower ranking state officials could not survive if they tried to be ‘honest’. The method of blaming individual is used to conceal the bigger picture. Concentrating on a single tree can help to hide the forest! Inquiries, commissions of investigations, judicial probes and similar deceptive tactics have a long history in this country. It is a common perception among the masses that to delay, diffuse and divert a burning issue or a monumental event these are the most abused tools of almost every regime that has been in power in Pakistan. If a problem has to be buried and pushed into oblivion, judicial commissions are set up whose results are never published. The murder of the workers in the Karachi and Lahore factories is being subjected to a similar fate. Then, after all the crocodile tears, it will be business as usual. More workers and peasants will be killed in factory fires, industrial accidents, state terrorism and other brutalities. New commissions, using obscure language, will be set up at the expense of the state. Then time will be allowed to lapse in the hope that the issue will lose its intensity and then exploitative capitalism will be allowed to continue extracting huge profits from the blood and bones of the toiling masses and more such atrocities will be repeated in the future. The ruling class and their petit bourgeois cronies of so-called “civil society” are calling for vigils, days of mourning and have offered televised condolences. One of the more blatantly corrupt and crude bourgeois has offered compensation to the bereaved families, adding insult to injury. First it will provoke family feuds for the division of the paltry crumbs thrown to them and, secondly, hardly anything will actually get beyond the corrupt bureaucratic apparatus and reach the families of the victims. Most likely it is a media gesture which will not even materialise. Another “theory” put forward by the Home Minister is that there has been the involvement of a foreign hand or that it was a “terrorist attack”. What a convenient theory! How low can these people stoop? The media, business magnates and the elite politicians are going hoarse describing this calamity as a ‘national tragedy’. Those proletarian men, women and children that perished belonged to a class that has been enslaved by the ruling class in the name of the “nation”. The oppression of the national groups, discrimination against women, the abhorrent treatment meted out to the religious minorities, the bloodletting going on between the Shias and the Sunnis, the Wahabi and other fundamentalist sects craving to cut throats of rival Islamic sects, hardly makes this a viable nation. What has to be stated clearly is that the decisive conflict is between the classes, between the rich and the poor. This is a tragedy of a working class that is deprived, subjugated and exploited in the name of the “nation”. These toiling masses have suffered relentless repression and have suffered the calamities of capitalism through national chauvinism, religious bigotry and a false patriotism indoctrinated into the mass psychology by the media and the state. The masses broke these chains in 1968-69. Their struggle is not a national struggle but a class war. The phoenix of the proletariat shall rise from the ashes and avenge this atrocity.

Court bails Pakistan fire factory owners
THREE factory-owners facing murder charges over the deaths of 289 people in a huge fire in Karachi handed themselves in to court on Friday to request pre-arrest bail, their lawyer said. Workers burned to death or suffocated in the massive blaze that engulfed Ali Enterprises clothing factory, which made ready-to-wear clothes for export to Western retailers, on Tuesday evening. Police registered a murder case over the fire on Thursday, saying the owners -- Abdul Aziz, Mohammad Arshad and Shahid Bhaila -- had shown "utter negligence" about workers' safety. The trio, who have not been arrested, appeared in the high court in Larkana, 450 kilometres (300 miles) north of Karachi and were granted "protective bail" for eight days, their lawyer Aamir Mansoor Qureshi told AFP. He said they went to the Larkana court as they feared for their lives in Karachi, the metropolis of 18 million people which came to a standstill on Thursday as a mark of respect for the victims of Pakistan's worst ever industrial fire."We prayed to Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi that we are willing to proceed through the legal course, and without a protective bail security repercussions were there," Qureshi said. A court official confirmed the ruling, which means the trio cannot be arrested before September 22, and said the judge had ordered them to appear in court in Karachi before the bail expired. "The court also directed the immigration officials to ensure they do not leave the country," the official added. Up to 600 people were working in the building, which officials said was in poor condition without emergency exits, forcing dozens to jump from upper storeys to escape the flames. Others were trapped in the basement, where they perished. The case has highlighted Pakistan's dismal industrial safety standards, with badly-paid workers given little equipment to protect them from hazardous conditions.


There were two fires reported in two factories—one in Karachi and another in Lahore, the two mega cities of Pakistan. More than 314 people lost their lives in Karachi garment factory fire while 25 persons killed in Lahore shoe factory. The large number of deaths indicated negligence, corruption, ignorance on the part of the Government or the State machinery. It is the State machinery that had ignored or condoned the sub-human conditions at working places in most parts of Pakistan, mainly in the two mega cities of Lahore and Karachi. Hundreds of people were working in a factory during the peak hours and there was a single exit that too was closed for unknown reasons causing 314 deaths in Karachi. It is a fact that the rules of the Building Control Authority had been violated and no one had taken notice to it. The State machinery is least interested to check the violation of building rules. Similarly, the KCCI, the SITE Association and Labour Department did not perform their duties ensuring safety and security of workers in hundred under one roof. On technical grounds, no one is responsible thus no one should be punished because all the relevant agencies and organizations are shifting the responsibilities on others. It is a sign of complete collapse of the State authority and the Government is unable to impose and implement its own rules and laws governing the factories and work places. It is believed that hundreds of factories are operating without fire fighting facilities. There were no multiple exit doors to provide escape route to the workers in case of emergency or fire erupting in the factories. According to building rules, there should be at least four exit routes for the workers to escape in case of any disaster. This is unfortunate that the rulers had merely condoled the death of hundreds of workers and announced compensation with no commitment to prevent recurrence of such deadly incidents in future. It is an indication that that the State machinery had virtually collapsed and there is a complete anarchy in every field and no one cares about the loss of life in factory fires. We have to arrest the drifting disasters in our society by imposing rule of law so that life and property of the innocent people, mainly the work force, is secured.

Karachi mourns as murder case filed over factory fire

Karachi shut down in mourning on Thursday for the deaths as authorities registered murder charges against factory bosses and government officials over the deaths of 289 people in the country's worst industrial disaster, police said. Workers suffocated or were burnt alive at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi, which made ready-to-wear clothing for Western export, when a massive fire tore through the building during the evening shift on Tuesday. Up to 600 people were working in the building, which officials said was in poor condition without emergency exits, forcing dozens to jump from upper storeys to escape the flames. Others were trapped in the basement, where they perished. "We have registered a murder case against the owners of the factory and several government officials for showing utter negligence to provide adequate security to the factory workers," said Nawaz Gondal, head of the local police station. Senior Karachi police officer Naeem Akram confirmed the move. The case has been filed against Abdul Aziz, Arshad and Shahid Bhaila and other members of the management of Ali Enterprises, Gondal said. The owners have not been seen since the blaze and police are hunting for them. The government has ordered an inquiry and officials said the owners, two of whom are brothers, have been barred from leaving the country. A retired judge, Zahid Qurban Alvi, will lead the investigation into the fire, with initial findings expected in a week. The probe will look into the cause of the fire, protection systems available inside the building and the extent of negligence on the owners' part, a government statement said. Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation said safety measures were ignored at the factory. "At Ali Enterprises there was only one exit point for more than 500 workers at the time of the emergency, all the windows had iron grills and doorways and stairs were stuffed with finished merchandise," he said. Karachi shut down in mourning on Thursday for the deaths. Public transport was suspended and schools and colleges closed. Factories and markets also shut while attendance at offices was thin. Relatives spent a second day at hospitals, desperate for news of their loved ones, breaking into wails and sobs when medics confirmed the identity of yet another body. With so many burnt beyond recognition, only 150 of the dead had been identified by Thursday afternoon, many by DNA, and 125 bodies handed back to families for burial, city police chief Iqbal Mehmood told AFP. Bakhsh, 60, burst into tears and hugged his teenage grandson outside the Civil Hospital morgue when he was informed that son Mohammad Ashraf's body had been identified. "We are doomed, it is doomsday for us, Allah will help us to survive," he sobbed. Even 36 hours after the disaster began, several families still gathered outside the gutted factory hoping for news of loved ones. Just a few firefighters were still working. There was thick smoke in the basement and it was still too hot to go inside, where boiling water formed a pool after firefighters spent hours hosing the flaming building. "The place is too hot and smoky, it is too risky to go inside and clear the building. We are waiting for now," chief fire officer Ehtesham Salim told AFP. Ambulances continued to ply back and forth to the factory, even as funeral prayers for some of the dead had already begun.

President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday welcomed China Foundation for Peace and Development (CFPD)’s commitment to double its scholarships for Pakistani students of underprivileged families who are seeking technical and vocational training through Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). During his meeting with Chinese delegation of CFPD, headed by Secretary General Xu Zhensui, President Asif Ali Zardari remarked that enhanced people to people contacts and mutual cooperation of the two countries especially in the social sectors would further strengthen traditional people-to-people brotherly relations and would augment government’s efforts in reducing poverty, women empowerment and uplift of marginalized sections of society. Xu Zhensui, Secretary General China Foundation for Peace and Development was accompanied by Tian Geng, Zhang Jing and Liu Chang. Chairperson BISP Farzana Raja, Secretary General to the President M. Salman Faruqui, Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar and other senior officials were also present during the meeting. The President said Benazir Income Support Programme, being the flagship programme of the present Government is based on the vision of martyred leader, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. BISP, the government’s flagship programme for poverty alleviation and women empowerment is aimed at socio-economic uplifting of the marginalised people, he added. The President said BISP has earned international recognition due to its effectiveness, efficiency and transparency. He said that CFPD’s support to BISP would complement its ability to reach out to the underprivileged and poor of the society. Xu Zhensui thanked the President for meeting and assured his organization’s continued assistance to the people of Pakistan and to BISP in various social sector endeavours. He expressed satisfaction over the performance of BISP for providing technical and vocational training to youth successfully in the first phase under Pak-China Friendship Scholarship Programme. This is the first ever social sector cooperation through BISP between Pakistan and China. The President said Pakistan highly values its friendship and strategic partnership with China and the people of two countries enjoy unique bonds of fraternity, trust and mutual respect. He said that it was heartening to note the progress being made in further strengthening the existing relations and mutual cooperation of the two countries. President Zardari said that Pakistan greatly values Chinese assistance and support towards its socio-economic development and was eager to fully translate the existing political relations into economic terms. Our ultimate goal, the President said is closer economic integration. He said that Pakistan has offered huge incentives to the Chinese business community and investors to get maximum benefits of the available opportunities in Pakistan. He said that recent legislation on Special Economic Zones will help the business community in reducing the cost of doing business and will enhance their rate of return. He said that under the new law all capital goods, machinery and equipment will get one time exemption from the customs duties and the entrepreneurs will be exempted from Income Tax for ten years. The President said, “We greatly admire Chinese tremendous socio-economic progress and wanted to learn from the Chinese experience of growth and development.”

Sri Lanka would not have defeated terrorism without Pakistan's support:
President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa Friday said his country would not have eliminated the scourge of terrorism without the help and support of Pakistan. Talking to a Pakistani Parliamentary delegation here at Temple Trees, he said Pakistan has proved to be a true friend of Sri Lanka and its government and people have deep affection for Pakistan. Talking to a delegation led by Dr Nafisa Shah, Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and Chairperson of National Commission for Human Development, he said Pakistan extended unflinching support to Sri Lanka during the three decade internal conflict. There was a clear understanding between the two sides to further strengthen the bilateral relations and both sides vowed to work closely in the regional and global context. The 22-member Pakistani Parliamentary Delegation is currently visiting Sri Lanka to participate in the 58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference from September 11-15. Other members of the delegation included the Speaker of Pakistan's Punjab Assembly Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan and Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah. The High Commissioner of Pakistan in Sri Lanka Seema Ilahi Baloch also accompanied the Pakistani delegation. Dr Nafisa Shah conveyed the appreciation of government of Pakistan, its parliament and people for the hospitality extended. She also commended the arrangements for the 58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in an impressive manner. She said that Pakistan and Sri Lanka are historically bond in a relationship of trust, mutual respect and deep friendship.

Pakhtunkhwa Health dept to provide free chemo, radiotherapy

The Express Tribune
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) health department has decided to provide free radiotherapy and chemotherapy to cancer patients in the province. The government has suggested four centres to provide cancer facilities; Institute of Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine (IRNUM) and Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar, and Ayub Medical Complex and Institute of Nuclear Medicine Oncology and Radiotherapy in Abbottabad. Initially, a sum of Rs500 million was sanctioned for the programme, but the government may increase the amount depending on the number of patients. “The programme titled ‘Begum Nusrat Bhutto Oncology Services K-P’ has been approved by the health department and the medical institutions concerned. “It now needs to be approved by the provincial cabinet,” IRNUM Director Dr Muhammad Rauf Khattak told The Express Tribune. He added that soon advertisements will be placed in national newspapers in order to buy the required equipment. “It will be a big step from the government’s side to facilitate all patients who cannot afford cancer treatment,” he said. “We are already providing free medicines to cancer patients and the new programme is expected to help them further since radiotherapy and chemotherapy are very costly,” said K-P Health Department Director General Dr Sharif Ahmad Khan. He further said that due to lack of awareness, patients do not get themselves checked, which worsens their situation. He stressed the need for consulting these centres in the initial stages of the disease. Health Special Secretary Dr Noorul Iman said executive and steering committees have been made to manage the programme and it is expected to start within two months.