KARACHI - A large number of workers here on Sunday staged a protest rally against price hike and record food inflation and demanded to stop making Pakistan a colony of International Monetary Fund (IMF), whom they dubbed as a new East India Company.

As per details, a large number of workers staged a rally here against neck breaking price hike and record food inflation under the banner of National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) and chanted slogans and the sitting government. The rally was led by Comrade Zehra Khan, Riaz Abbassi and Comrade Aqib Hussain.

Addressing the rally, labour leaders accused the rulers of being facilitators and agents of IMF and other global lenders. They said for just six billion dollars, Pakistan is being made an IMF colony.

Terming the present and past rulers responsible for the ongoing economic crisis in the country, they said that due to their anti-people policies today Pakistan is burdened with 130 billion dollars foreign loans and Rs 53.5 trillion internal loans. They said 22 percent increase in these loans was gotten during the government of Imran Khan. They said every new ruler has proved crueler than the previous one. They said the present government has pushed the masses to the worst economic crisis. By increasing oil prices to an unbearable level the poor masses are being pushed to hunger and death. The relief of Rs28 billion as announced by the government is like rubbing salt into the wounds of poor people of Pakistan. This relief is for eight and half Crore people which means a relief of Rs330 per head.

They said the real inflation is much higher than the government-announced inflation of 15.1 percent. They said that as per an estimate food inflation is more than 17.25 percent, while electricity tariff has been hiked by 24.8 and gas tariff by 45 percent. They said during last five years the rates of medicines have been increased by 265 percent.

They said that in 2018 minimum wage was Rs16200 or 132 dollars per month and in 2022 it is Rs19000 ot 95 dollars, which means that real minimum wage is decreased by 33 dollars or Rs7300 per month.

Resultantly, 179 million Pakistani citizens, or 78 percent of population, are compelled to live beneath the poverty line. However, the ruling elite including capitalists, military and civilian bureaucracy and landlords, who control politics, extort 17.4 billion dollars per annum from the national economy. The landlords who are not even one percent of the total population own 22 percent of the cultivable lands of the country. Capitalists get benefits of 4.7 billion per year from the State, while military establishment gets relief of Rs1.7 billion every year in land tax. The national economy is at the verge of bankruptcy but the defense budget is being increases by Rs1.45 trillion for the coming fiscal.

They said that 49.6 percent of national income goes to 20 percent high-income population while the poorest population of 20 percent gets only 7 percent of the total national income. They said that governor of State Bank gets a salary of Rs24 Lakh per month and a judge gets salary of Rs13 Lakhs per month besides other perks while a worker gets Rs19000 per month salary in Sindh and 90 percent of workers even do not get it. They said senior officers get a monthly pension of Rs7 Lakh but majority of the workers doesn’t get a meagre pension of a few thousands from the EOBI.

They said increasing socioeconomic injustice in society is the result of insensitivity of the ruling elite. It could only end with help of an organised mass resistance movement. They said that the people of Pakistan are right when they say the ruling elite including politicians, capitalists, feudal lords, civil and military bureaucracy and those who run the judicial system have made a so-called holy alliance to safeguard their vested interests that is making life a living hell for the poor masses of Pakistan.

They suggested that with approval of parliament talks should be held with the lending agencies including IMF for a ten year moratorium on their loans.

They asked cutting defence budget by fifty percent, but not to reduce the combat budget.

They said use of vehicles of more than 1500cc in government offices should be banned. Saying that free petrol of Rs50 billion per year to 0.15 million cars of government officets should be stopped.

They asked for 50 percent cut in the salaries of officers of Grade 18 and above including judges, parliamentarians and generals.

They said that trade ties with India should be resumed and both countries should give the most favourite nation (MFN) status to one another.

They asked for sweeping land reforms, and distributing lands of absent landlords amongst Haris.

They suggested patronising export industry while discouraging imports. They asked banning imports of all goods that could be made in the country. Steps should be taken to check smuggling.

They demanded at least Rs40000 minimum wages and calculating the minimum wages on basis of price hike.

They asked for pension and old age social security rights to each and every citizen.

They asked for an awareness drive on war footing basis to tell masses about the harmful effects of extra use of sugar, ghee and vegetable oil.

They suggested to start office timings at 7:00 am and shop closure at 7:00 pm.

They asked to increase public transport to check unbridled use of fuel.

They demanded to levy a 100 percent duty on soft drinks and cigarettes.

Those who spoke including Karamt Ali of National Labour Council, Saira Feroz of United HB Workers Union, Parveen Bano of Home Based Women Workers Federation, Bakht Zameen of SITE Labour Forunm, Fahad from Standard Board Workers Action Committee, Saeeda Khatoon of Balida Factory Fire Affecttees Association Comrade Wahid Baloch writer, Zahid Farooq of Urban Resource Center, Akber Narajo from Progressive Labour Union Pakistan Steel Mill, Ayub Qureshi from National Party, Annoshay Alam and M. Sharif, Social Activist, Owasi Jatoi from Alternate Youth Group and others.