“Stop privatisation or face a black out”

More than 3000 workers of Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation [KESC] organised a protest rally against the proposed privatisation of this state owned corporation which supplies power to 1.3 million people in Karachi.

This was second protest in the series of activities organised against this privatisation. In the first rally only 1000 workers participated. But the last rally was a great success because many more workers came out from their work places. It was biggest rally organised by workers of KESC since 1999,when the army took over the running of this corporation.

The mood of workers was very radical and they chanted slogans against the Musharraf Regime and the army officers who run the company on a day-to-day basis. They marched through the streets and gathered in front of KESC head quarters Shaheen Complex. Workers are now more confident of their strength and have put pressure on their union leadership to call a strike, using what is now a famous slogan “Stop privatisation or face a black out”.

All the trade unions in KESC have formed an alliance called the Employees Action committee. The workers also burnt an effigy of General Musharraf. Workers are saying that 9000 KESC employees will fight to the end to defend their rights. Workers on the demonstration commented that they were prepared to face the consequences of state repression in order to continue their struggle. Now workers are preparing another even bigger rally.

The government has temporarily suspended the process of privatisation, but they will try to start the process very soon. The World Bank has made it very clear to the government that if they fail to privatise KESC before March 2005, they will stop funds for power sector reforms.

In this strike workers once again proved that working class unity between those of different national, religious, and caste backgrounds can be built.

Karachi was in the grip of violence ,civil war between different linguistic and national groups, for at least 12 years in 1980s and 1990s.

This struggle has partially cut across the divisions created by the bloodshed of previous years. Socialist Movement members in Karachi have fully participated in this struggle. They also urged workers to approach other unions and workplaces to support this struggle. We are also printing a leaflet to publicise this struggle. We are also planning to organise a solidarity campaign in the labour movement nationally to support this struggle. Struggles like this can open the flood gates of new workers movements in Pakistan.

Khalid Bhatti