Peaceful protest of Power Loom workers turns violent
By: Yasir Ilyas
FAISALABAD July 22, 2010: More than 100,000 workers of power loom industry in Faisalabad district -- that were on strike since July 20 to ask for an increase in their wages, as announced by the government -- have decided to go violent after mishandling of Punjab government as well as inflexibility shown by the owners.
To deal with the striking workers the Punjab provincial government has reshuffled the administration and police of Faisalabad district, to deal strongly against the striking workers and to avoid the strike from spreading to other districts of the province, where more than 600,000 workers are engaged in power loom industry. The four leaders of the movement were taken into custody by the police and allegedly detained illegally in the police station.
It is feared that the leaders might have been killed in a fake police encounters, as within 10 days, during the reshuffle in administration, one labour leader of power loom workers, Mustansir Randhawa, his brother, as well as two Christian brothers were murdered by unknown persons.
On the first day of the strike, the employers/owners of the power loom factories pelted the striking workers with stones and injured many who were peacefully protesting. The police used batons and tear gas shells resulting in more than 25 workers being injured, including the leader of the striking workers. The police have arrested more than 100 workers.
Another round of talks between the workers and the owners of the factories under the district coordinating officer of Faisalabad failed because of the inflexible attitude of the owners who were demanding the arrests of all the leaders of Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM). The Chief Minister of Punjab has threatened the striking workers that any further deterioration of law and order will not be tolerated.