Protesting workers threaten to halt printing, distribution of electricity bills
Workers of the Lahore Electricity Supply Company (LESCO) and the Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (FESCO) staged protest demonstrations on Wednesday against plans for privatisation of the utilities.
In Lahore, the rally started from Aiwan-i-Iqbal on Egerton Road and ended in front of LESCO Headquarters on Queen’s Road. The workers chanted slogans against privatisation and the government.
“The workers have been protesting against privatisation for quite some time. However, the government has not listened to their grievances,” said IA Rehman, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan secretary general.
Rehman said several economists had also spoken against privatisation. He said that the provision of electricity should be a public sector enterprise. “If privatisation goes ahead as planned, then I assure you the poor will not get any electricity at all. Electricity is a basic need. The poor do not use it for luxuries, but only to light up their houses at night,” he said.
Khurshid Ahmed, the All Pakistan Wapda Hydro-Electric Workers Union (CBA) general secretary, thanked the participants. “Workers all over the country are protesting against privatisation. They work day and night to ensure the supply of electricity to the people, sometimes at the cost of their lives,” he said.
“The cabinet committee’s decision to privatise 74 per cent shares of the FESCO violates the recommendation of the Senate’s Water and Power Committee. The FESCO is the most profitable electricity supply company,” he said.
Union vice president Sajid Kazmi, Pakistan Workers’ Confederation (PWC) chairman Yousuf Baloch, PWC secretary Akbar Ali Khan, Awami Workers’ Party president Farooq Tariq also addressed the protesters.
International Youth and Workers’ Movement (IYWM) chairperson Jawad Ahmed was also present at the protest. “Workers create everything. Yet they are denied their rights,” he said. He urged the workers to form their own political party to secure their rights.
Scores of FESCO employees staged a protest demonstration on Wednesday and locked their offices. They also staged protest sit-ins outside FESCO Headquarters and divisional and sub-divisional offices.
They warned that they would not print or distribute electricity bills in Faisalabad, Jhang, Chiniot, Toba Tek Singh, Sargodha, Khushab, Bhakkar and Mianwali districts if the government did not withdraw its decision to privatise the FESCO.
CBA regional General Secretary Sarfraz Ahmed said that the government was privatising FESCO to benefit its henchmen.
“The FESCO is at the top of the list of profit-earning power distribution companies. It has the least line losses. The government’s decision will not only destroy the company, but also create a wave of resentment among its employees,” he said.
He said that the government should take company workers into confidence.
Some of the protesters threatened to switch off electricity supply to the region if the privatisation decision was not withdrawn.
Muhammad Munir Ghani, Rana Shabbir Hussain, Mian Ghulam Rasool, Mian Ammar, Ajmal Nagra, Chaudhary Muhammad Nawaz, Saifullah Sindhu, Qasim Sindhu, Rana Muhammad Amir, Abdul Ghaffar Gujjar, Rafiq Gujjar, Rana Muhammad Boota, Haji Murtaza, Anees Sindhu, Allama Mustafa, Mian Farooq and Rana Rasheed Ahmad also addressed the protesters.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2015.