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Pakistan Power Workers Arrested, Strike Action Called

Three leaders of Pakistan's electricity workers arrested today in a violent raid by police and agents of the Federal Investigation Agency; Protest strikes tomorrow.


Three leaders of Pakistan's electricity workers were arrested today in a violent raid by police and agents of the Federal Investigation Agency. Protest strikes have been called for tomorrow.

Witnesses say the police and FIA agents broke windows and doors at the headquarters of the Pakistan WAPDA Labour Union (PWLU) in Gujrat. (WAPDA is the Pakistani power utility, currently facing privatisation plans.)

PWLU President Choudhry Riaz Ahmed, General Secretary Pirzad Imtiaz Syed and Assistant General Secretary Syed Zia Ullah Azam were taken away to an unknown place, apparently for interrogation.

The reasons for the raid are unclear, but witnesses heard police officers speak of "anti-state activities" and "treason". On a number of occasions, the union has stated its opposition to the use of nuclear power for military purposes.

The police and FIA, who did not produce any warrants, searched the union's offices and took away its documents. A similar search, also without a warrant, was made at the General Secretary's home.

According to the PWLU, some 300 trade unions and non-governmental organisations in Pakistan have condemned the arrests and have called for protest strikes tomorrow (Tuesday 16 October).

This was the second FIA assault on the PWLU headquarters within five months.

On 1 June, General Secretary Pirzada Imtiaz Syed was arrested in a FIA raid during which a union staffer had his arm broken, computers and other equipment were smashed and the PWLU's files were seized.

Pirzada Imtiaz Syed was detained until 12 June, when a judge ordered his release. The union leader was immediately hospitalised as a result of the ill-treatment that he received during interrogation. This has prompted fears for the well-being of the three PWLU leaders arrested today.

At the global level, the PWLU is affiliated to the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM).

In a protest to Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs has called for the immediate and unconditional release of the three union leaders, assurances that they have not been harmed in any way, immediate return of all documents belonging to the PWLU, payment of full compensation to the PWLU for all damage sustained in both raids, and a clear guarantee that the union will not be harassed in future.



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