Karachi, Pakistan – Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Pakistan (FES Pakistan), in collaboration with Public Service International (PSI) and Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC), successfully organized a “Public Hearing on Privatization and Public Debt in Pakistan” today. The event aimed to address the pressing issues related to privatization policies and public debt and their impact on workers’ rights and public welfare in the country.
The public hearing commenced with opening remarks from Mr. Abdullah Dayo, Programme Advisor of FES Pakistan, who warmly welcomed the distinguished panelists, PSI officials, SHRC, trade unionists, and PSI affiliates and welcomed distinguished panelists on the stage.
Kannan Raman, Sub-regional Secretary for South Asia at Public Services International (PSI) a prominent labor advocate, passionately voiced his concerns about the adverse effects of privatization policies during the historic Public Hearing. Drawing attention to the underfunding of public services, impacts on low-income families, and marginalized groups, Brother Kannan stressed the urgent need for transparency in privatization processes and highlighted the importance of protecting workers’ rights and promoting resilient trade unions for a more equitable work environment in the country.
Followed by him Kate Lapin, a fervent advocate for labour rights and Regional Secretary for PSI Asia and Pacific, made significant contributions. Ms. Lapin’s speech highlighted three crucial points: First, she underscored the repercussions of conditionalities imposed by international financial institutions (IFIs), emphasizing how they can adversely impact labor rights and human welfare in the country. Second, Sister Kate passionately advocated for the necessity of strong public services to combat the challenges posed by the climate crisis, stressing their role in ensuring the well-being of communities. Third, she emphasized the importance of resilient staff and government effectiveness, particularly in the context of privatization, to uphold the rights and welfare of the populace. Sister Kate’s expertise and dedication have been instrumental in promoting labor rights and public welfare, both within Pakistan and on the global stage.
Dr. Kaiser Bengali, a renowned senior economist, highlighted the misconception that industrialization is solely due to the private sector, noting that public sectors, particularly PIDC, have played a crucial role in promoting industrial growth in Pakistan. He stressed the need to strike a balance between public-centric and private-centric norms and called for united efforts to protect workers’ rights.
Senior Economist Ms. Iffat Ara emphasized the significance of planning and processes before privatizing any establishment, emphasizing the need to safeguard labor rights and state-owned profits. She called for setting mandates for the state, focusing on national interests, increasing foreign reserves, and prioritizing economic growth through enhanced exports. Ms. Ara also stressed the potential of public-private partnerships in the manufacturing sector and emphasized the collective effort required to safeguard human rights.
Ms. Nuzhat Shireen, Chairperson of Sindh Commission for the Status of Women raised concerns about the lack of representation of women in trade unions and public sectors, the prevalence of sexual and gender-based harassment, and the denial of proper hiring practices. She urged for the inclusion of women and trans individuals in policy-making to bridge the gender gap and address these issues effectively.
Barrister Rida, in her address, highlighted how privatization can exacerbate gender disparities and stressed the importance of including trans individuals in policies to promote inclusivity and equal opportunities.
Iqbal Detho, Chairperson SHRC, expressed gratitude to FES and PSI for organizing the public hearing and outlined SHRC’s mandate of promoting and protecting human rights. He shared recent human rights policy developments, including cognizance powers of SHRC for taking legal action against human rights abuses in both public and private establishments, as well as the inclusion of labor laws in legal aid services. He affirmed his commitment to working as a bridge between civil society and the government to address human rights violations.
The public hearing witnessed active participation from over 30 trade unions and workers’ organizations. Their testimonies and experiences were instrumental in highlighting the challenges faced by workers due to privatization policies. Veteran trade unionists including Mr. Abdul Latif Nizamani, Mr. Khursheed Ahmed, Mr. Sultan Khan Mr. Habib-ud-din Junaidi, Mr. Nasir Mansoor, and others spoke at the forum.
Upon conclusion of the hearing Abdullah Dayo (FES Pakistan), shed light on the critical issues plaguing the nation amidst the ongoing economic crisis. He highlighted the various contributing factors, including massive external debt, neoliberal policies, financial mismanagement, the impact of the COVID-19, inflationary pressures from commodity imports, devastating floods in 2022, and the pressing climate crisis. Mr. Dayo drew attention to the current government’s negotiations for a further loan agreement with financial institutions, which reportedly include conditions for privatizing public sector enterprises, removing subsidies on public services, including electricity, and reducing the public sector wage bill. He expressed deep concern about the reckless privatization initiatives in Pakistan, and stressed collective efforts of all stakeholders to pacify it.
FES Pakistan’s commitment to addressing these issues and collaborating with PSI and other organizations to support workers’ rights and promote public welfare was reiterated throughout the event. The shared experiences and recommendations from this public hearing will be documented and presented in Islamabad as part of the collective effort to find solutions to the challenges posed by privatization in the region.
About Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Pakistan Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Pakistan is a platform that promotes social democracy, worker’s rights, gender equality, and human rights in Pakistan. Established in 1925, FES Pakistan continues to work towards fostering a just and equitable society.
About Public Service International (PSI) Public Service International (PSI) is a global trade union federation representing over 30 million public service workers worldwide. PSI works to defend public services, fight privatization, and promote workers’ rights and decent working conditions.
About Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) is a platform for the public to raise grievances and complaints regarding human rights violations in Sindh, Pakistan. SHRC compiles reports and sends recommendations to the government for appropriate action.
End of Press Release
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Sheikh Mushtaq Ahmed
Panelist of the Public Hearing:
- Arshad Noor Khan, Member Judicial I
- Aslam Shaikh, Member Judicial II
- Ms. Iffat Ara, Senior Economist
- Dr. Kaiser Bengali, Senior Economist
- Nuzhat Shireen, Chairperson Sindh Commission for the Status of Women
- Barrister Rida
- Iqbal Detho, Chairperson of SHRC