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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 October 2012

Pakistan: Workers die as profit put before safety

Khalid Bhatti, CWI in Pakistan

In September a garment factory inferno in Karachi's Baldia Town took the lives of at least 275 workers, including a number of women and teenagers. This once again exposed the horrific working conditions in Pakistan.

This incident is not an exception but a norm for the working class and especially for industrial workers in Pakistan.

On the same day, in a shoe factory in Lahore, more than 25 workers were burnt to death and scores maimed.

One of the survivors of the Lahore factory inferno said: "Everyone has to die one day. People like me will die of starvation if they don't work."

At least 90% of factories in Karachi are working illegally, yet no action has been taken against them because of the political support enjoyed by their owners.

According to official estimates, Pakistan's total workforce exceeds 57 million but only 2.1 million of them are registered with provincial social security departments.

The question this harrowing incident poses is can the capitalists sustain the rates of profits they are extracting from the workers by imparting liveable wages, pensions, health benefits and proper safety conditions? The answer is a big no!

To attain their rates of profits the bosses had to exploit labour to the level of drudgery. But even that was not enough, they had to steal the 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. A subsidiary of the Pakistan army is the largest entrepreneur with an investment of $27 billion in the economy.

The government has turned a blind eye to the repeated demands of the trade unions to upgrade safety and security in the factories while the factory owners and captains of industry live a life of luxury at the expense of their workers' health and lives.

The formation of new trade unions and workers' committees in all the workplaces is the need of the hour.

The struggle for workers' rights, decent wages and better working conditions is linked with the struggle to overthrow the capitalist system and to replace it with socialism.

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