Temporary respite? : KESC protest moves away from Sunset Blvd to press club

If the talks remain fruitless, the siege will continue, say workers.

Noman Ahmed July 21, 2011


Sacked Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) staff have agreed to end their sit-in at the Gizri head office only to move it to somewhere near the press club.

They have agreed to temporarily relocate, as they wait for negotiations to bear some fruit in the next few days. On Thursday, they gathered in the hundreds outside Governor House, precipitating a massive traffic jam. Everyone’s eyes were on Governor House where separate meetings were being held between the government, labour union and company.

As protesters started to arrive at the Musical Fountain, installed in front of Governor House on Aiwan-e-Saddar road, a stout, bearded man in his 60s took hold of the microphone at the stage improvised from a KESC ladder-mounted truck (MTL) truck. Spirits were flagging. It was around 1pm, as they arrived in small groups to wait under the punishing sun. Nylon mats were laid on the road. Those who could find a spot, gave their feet a rest.

Around 13 MTL trucks were parked to cordon off the area and a number of police and Rangers personnel took to barricading Aiwan-e-Saddar Road, Abdullah Haroon Road and Zaibunnisa Street. The movement of traffic was only open from and through Strachan road and partly through Victoria Road.

In less than two hours, the spot was packed with hundreds of KESC employees. “I’m hopeful that things will turn out good and if not then we’ll wait for the orders of our labor union president. He’s our savior,” gushed Abdul Qayyum, an MTL driver at KESC.

An hour passed by but the moment labour union representatives went inside for the meeting, new police contingents, brandishing riot gear, arrived at the scene. Suddenly an awkwardness spread among the sitting protesters - an anger blended a certain sense of uneasiness. As if sensing this, people at the helm broke out into deafening slogans and chants - religous and Marxist - from the stage in order to raise morale. Allah-u Akbar [God is Great], Ya Rasool Allah [Oh God’s Prophet (pbuh)], Long Live the Worker.

A short while later, Azhar Lodhi, a meter inspector, mounted the truck-stage to get the crowd to its feet with his customised songs: “Sathio, mujahido, jaag raha he ek mazdoor” [O friends, fighters, a worker has awakened] and “Gar hum ko hamara haq na mila, hum jaan dein gey ya jaan lein gey” [If we do not get our due, we will either give a life or take a life]. Hands waved, cheers broke out and whistles pierced the air.

Simultaneously, a water cannon moved from the back of the road and came to the edge of the fountain, where barricades had been set up to prevent anyone from actually making it to Governor House. Four other were parked nearby, confirmed DSP Mazhar Iqbal.

A man from the protesters brought out a national flag from somewhere and installed it on the truck-stage amid loud applause. Lodhi bowed and switched to singing national songs. Indifferent to all this, a young lad, his lips tightly closed, kept himself busy by rolling over his prayer beads.

“This has become a matter of life and death now,” said Maqsood Khan, another meter inspector.  “KESC’s new management has put our and our children’s lives at stake.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd,  2011.

A slideshow of pictures from their protest can be seen here.


ASK | 11 years ago | Reply

This is not a protest but the people of the city, the government and a private company with foreign investors kept hostage by thieves, in-efficient and nothing to do criminals. A normal and efficient person would look or find a job anywhere else in another company but since these people don't work and get paid anyways they know they can't lose their golden job. I am sure all of them may not be the same but that is the way it works. For the actions of a few a lot of the employees are blamed. What these people fail to understand their actions may hurt the intentions of future companies who may want to invest in Pakistan. Again, I am not a KESC fan, as I know and have paid their employees to get some repair work done after waiting 1 week without electricity. But, it is not about me or the striking employee's, it is what message we give to the foreign companies who have invested or want to invest in Pakistan.

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