Chief minister directed me to stop the inspection of factories: Labour minister

Published: September 13, 2012
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Former minister of labour Ameer Nawab. PHOTO: http://www.pas.gov.pk

Former minister of labour Ameer Nawab. PHOTO: http://www.pas.gov.pk

Former minister of labour Ameer Nawab. PHOTO: http://www.pas.gov.pk An emergency evacuation plan hangs undamaged next to the entrance of the godown, which was one area of the compound badly affected by the fire. The rescue team did not enter the warehouse from the ground floor, fearing that the building might collapse. Instead, they retrieved bodies from the godown by climbing onto its roof from the adjacent building. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS
A rescue worker holds up a tag belonging to one of the victims. It was found from the stitching room on the third floor of the ill-fated factory. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS
KARACHI: 

Ameer Nawab, who has just resigned from his post as Sindh labour minister, has said that Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah had stopped him from taking action against factories violating labour rules.

This point was corroborated by Sharafat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, an organisation that works for labour rights. He alleged on Wednesday that the CM had verbally issued directives to government officials to stop the inspections of factories in Sindh.

It appears that Sindh was following in Punjab’s footsteps. In 2003, the Punjab government banned labour inspections, following which the Sindh CM did the same.

Ameer Nawab says he was told to drop cases. He told The Express Tribune that officials from his department had raided some areas in Karachi and registered cases against a few factories, which were not registered with the labour department. Action was taken against the factories after a number of complaints were received that they were violating the labour law.

But he was told to withdraw the cases. “We tried to persuade the CM that the cases have been referred to court, and cannot be withdrawn,” he said, adding that the CM expressed his anger over the operation. “Since then we stopped the inspections. How can we continue with them when the chief executive of a province asks us to stop an inquiry and withdraw the cases?” Before Musharraf came to power, factories were supposed to be inspected once a year. During chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim’s time under the Musharraf set-up, the rule was that before an inspection, labour officials had to serve an employer one month’s notice about when they would be coming. “This refutes the actual purpose of an inspection,” Nawab said. He had asked CM Qaim Ali Shah to revisit the cabinet’s decision but nothing happened.

Piler’s Sharafat Ali had a similar story to tell. He told The Express Tribune that a former deputy director of the labour department, who was also in charge of the health and safety department with the government of Sindh, had raided a factory in SITE soon after the PPP government came to power. He said that the officials not only fined the factory owner, but in a detailed inquiry report held the factory employer responsible for violating labour laws.

Ali alleged that since the factory owner was influential, the CM’s adviser, Zubair Motiwala, not only got involved in the matter but had the case transferred from an honest official and declared the investigation report “null and void”.

“Soon after the incident, the chief minister issued a verbal order directing officials to suspend the inspection of factories in the province,” Piler’s Ali alleged. At that time, trade union leaders had fought back and brought the issue up with Labour Minister Ameer Nawab. Nothing happened.

For his part, adviser Motiwala has disputed this information and said that he had never ever helped any employer violate labour laws. “I accept that the rules are not properly implemented, but it is totally wrong to say that the chief minister had issued verbal orders to suspend the inspection of factories and that I helped a factory owner,” he said. He added that there was rampant corruption in the labour department, which has dented its performance and inspections are not conducted properly.

Regardless of these cases, trade unionists and labour rights defenders held the state responsible for the loss of lives in the factories of Karachi and Lahore. Speaking at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday, Noor Muhammad of the Pakistan Workers Confederation said that the entire state, including the government, its departments, policymakers and all those concerned with the enforcement of labour laws were responsible for the deaths of the labourers.

“The state and its machinery is responsible because they silently allow the violation of laws and regulations established to ensure health and safety at work,” said Muhammad.

The National Trade Union Federation held a protest outside the press club and demanded Rs700,000 for those who died in the fire and Rs300,000 for the injured.

“If inspections are allowed in jails where people serve time for their crimes then why is this right denied to labourers who strive to earn by lawful means?” asked Ayub Qureshi of the Pakistan Trade Union Federation. “Industrialists and entrepreneurs have been allowed to treat their labourers even worse than animals.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (39)

  • Not me
    Sep 13, 2012 - 6:31AM

    Government collects WWF, EOBI and they should compensate those who suffered.
    if labour inspectors were stopped from inspection, then thei r jobs should have been abolished.Why were they employed.

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  • Animal Farm - Desi
    Sep 13, 2012 - 7:04AM

    Will the Chief Justice take suo motu action on this matter also which is in reality related to the wellbeing of the common people rather is a matter of life and death. Or is he only interested in meaningless high-profile cases…?

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  • Muhammad Ali
    Sep 13, 2012 - 8:53AM

    @Animal Farm – Desi:
    Well he has taken suo moto on this issue.

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  • Obvious
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:21AM

    This is criminally motivated, and should be punished.
    .
    NO IMMUNITY FOR ANYONE

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  • afzaalkhan
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:29AM

    @Animal Farm – Desi

    Would u get a life? 258 ppl dead and all u can think of is bringing politics and hatred?

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  • umar
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:43AM

    Actually somebody resigns after an incident…… I thought this tradition of resignation was long forgotten by this Govt.

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  • Mehran
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:44AM

    PPP has failed miserably in providing good governance to people. Sindh has been hit by multiple man made floods but PPP could not do much to rehabilitate people. Current Fire in factory is very sad event. Those who are responsible should be held accountable. I wonder, ET can publish any thing abt any party but MQM. Every one knows that it is MQM who is having Ministry of Industries but they don’t highlight this factor. The failure of Minister of Industries is not talked about at all because it will expose MQM’s so called rhetoric of good governance and quality administration as bogus and flop.

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  • CrapCutter
    Sep 13, 2012 - 10:08AM

    Too late a resignation. If what he says about CM Sindh is true, then both are equally liable. He should have resigned the day he was supposedly asked to stop inspections.

    Sorry sir, but don’t find the easy way out!

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  • a diverse view
    Sep 13, 2012 - 10:20AM

    @Animal Farm – Desi:

    why do we expect the judiciary to perform the role which the government should perform…and when it does we accuse it of crossing its boundaries….

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  • XYZ
    Sep 13, 2012 - 10:53AM

    @Mehran all the Labor Departments are infested with quotafied outsiders who are just here in Karachi to mint money ..All knows that

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  • Son of Karachi
    Sep 13, 2012 - 10:54AM

    @Mehran:
    You have nothing except MQM phobia the real culprits are the one who is the chief of the whole province and he has all authority and MQM has no power ministries to actually bring the change in the whole province and its system.

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  • Macho
    Sep 13, 2012 - 11:24AM

    The minister has resigned and has grudges against the government, so he speaks. Had he been in power ( and he remained in power for four years) he would have been giving excuses. The former minister is equally responsible for looking the other way and not carrying out his responsibilities.

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  • Ayesha
    Sep 13, 2012 - 11:26AM

    Pakistani Politicians and the fairy tales of their corruption…ufff

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  • Khalid
    Sep 13, 2012 - 11:51AM

    In any good organization, HSE standards are of paramount importance. In many organization, safety of the workers come first and everything else is secondary. The job of authories is to make sure that safety standards are met. It would be wrong to assume that this is only Labour department’s domain. Labour department is responsible from the angle of labour’s safety, and its falure should be condemned. But the local authorities, under whose territory this fatory was working are also equally responsible. Did they check what will happen in case of accident and how any accident can impact the factory as well as surrounding areas?

    The beurocracy in Pakistan is the most incompetent one. If they were stopped by verbal order by the CM, did they got this order formalized by getting it inked and signed by the CM? If not they should be held responsible under murder cases….

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  • Baby Ka Husband
    Sep 13, 2012 - 12:42PM

    @CrapCutter:
    Who gives a crap~!~~???

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  • Khan of Cape Town
    Sep 13, 2012 - 1:38PM

    IF CM stopped you, why did not you stop yourself from going to your office.

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  • Neutral
    Sep 13, 2012 - 1:55PM

    Divers view…u r so very right…

    2 ) at least the industry minister has resigned making it a first person to break this culture as record in corruption infested Pakistan where resignations are a taboo…Recommend

  • Reader
    Sep 13, 2012 - 2:47PM

    The labour department was stopped from inspecting the industrial units to prevent the labour department officials from harassing the employers and soliciting bribes. All regulatory bodies are prone to bribery therefore no amount of inspections will improve the situation.

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  • ab
    Sep 13, 2012 - 2:54PM

    100s of events happened but no one in power takes responsibility. very sad

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  • Tariqli
    Sep 13, 2012 - 3:21PM

    Wah CM sahib wah. can we hold him responsible for the incident ? He must be removed from the post

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  • A2Z
    Sep 13, 2012 - 3:22PM

    @Neutral Resignation is not a taboo but thrill for them, just a way to gain publicity to be successful in the next elections.

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  • Khalid Ahmed
    Sep 13, 2012 - 3:26PM

    He has given the statement after tendering the resignation. Why did not he raise the issue when he was minister of the department.

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  • Rafique
    Sep 13, 2012 - 3:32PM

    The minister is making false claim against CM. His department officials and he himself are not scared cows. The bribe rampant at labour department from lower rank official to minister secretariatRecommend

  • Shafaq
    Sep 13, 2012 - 4:19PM

    His resignation must not be accepted. He must be punished very seriously. All of these people remain silent when getting these type of ORDERS and now he is blaming other person.

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  • Syed
    Sep 13, 2012 - 4:34PM

    Hell will be so damn full. Muslims will dominate there and I feel bad for poor totally outnumber non muslims there.

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  • Asad
    Sep 13, 2012 - 5:18PM

    Arrest the CMRecommend

  • Pagall
    Sep 13, 2012 - 5:32PM

    Y he’s telling now after the incident?
    He should have come up on media and tell that CM has stopped him
    Blame game
    CM and him both should be held responsible including who are involved (Factory owner for not taking safety measures) and their managers as well
    and should be hanged for the killings of innocent people.

    Recommend

  • Rafiq
    Sep 13, 2012 - 6:54PM

    I feel sorry for my country.People who are ruling Pakistan made my Zameen from PAK SIR ZAMEEN SHAD BAAD TO PAK SIR ZAMEEN KHOON BAAD, CORRUPT BAAD, BHATHA BAAD !!!!!! I am so sad and hurt. Nobody is sincere to Pakistan. Everyone
    is pointing finger towards other. Total failure of both federal and provincial Govts. Recommend

  • I.ALI
    Sep 13, 2012 - 8:36PM

    Chief Minister should be hanged…………..

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  • sohail osman ali
    Sep 13, 2012 - 8:39PM

    nearly 300 individuals were burned to death in that factory. We already have more than enough laws to ensure a safe environment and good working conditions for workers- the issue is lack of implementation. This tragedy has exposed the blatant corruption of all the inspectors who use the umbrella of the law to harrass and blackmail employers so that they can up the ante regarding their kickbacks, and in many cases enables owners not to spend additional funds on worker safety. I hear factory inspections take place every 3 months. They are all guilty of murder of all those people who were trying to make an honest living. Its time the entire government inspection process is turned inside out, all inspection reports of this factory are made public information, and the guilty prosecuted.

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  • I.ALI
    Sep 13, 2012 - 8:43PM

    @Tariqli:
    He must be hanged!

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  • Ashfaque
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:21PM

    Most of the labor department officers who are posted in Karachi industrial areas are corrupt and violating all regulations of department, check their accounts and see how much millions of money they have in their accounts,plots etc,their jobs should be terminated, they are playing with the lives of poor workers and officers are enjoying perks, need of immediate action.

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  • Noman
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:21PM

    Will MQM ask now ask for SM’s resignation? … no way!!

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  • doc
    Sep 13, 2012 - 10:33PM

    a wrong perception..this minister didnt resign on this issue..infact he had already resigned a couple of days back over local govt ordinance issue..

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  • KnoWht!
    Sep 14, 2012 - 7:44AM

    Well! Under the circumstances court is the only way left!
    This calamity should be treated like Air Blue Crash in Islamabad and
    the victims’ families must be paid a sum equal to ten year worth of salary of the diseased or atleast 10 Lakh each, whichever is greater, by the Government.

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  • Concern Paki
    Sep 15, 2012 - 8:06AM

    Ministry of labor should be responsible for this mess.
    Ministry of Industry, Chief minister, and the Governor should be held responsible for this incident. I will advice people to take out protest rallies until all of these administrator’s resign and leave the government.

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  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Sep 15, 2012 - 8:55AM

    @KnoWht!: Why the government or the people should pay, it is the responsibility of the owners , they are the ones who were making money of these people’s labour. They are liable for negligence and compensation to the grieving families.

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  • Ahsan
    Sep 15, 2012 - 10:27PM

    Chief Minister of Sindh too must resign. Ameer Nawab too should be taken to task; why did he obey criminal order of the Chief Minister?

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  • KnoWht!
    Sep 16, 2012 - 12:06AM

    @naeem khan Manhattan,Ks:
    Ofcourse Naeem, the government can sue or penalize the owner for deliberate negligence on top of charging for the payments to the victims families. As far as ” Why the people should pay….) I think the people have already paid heavily by giving their life for someone who was not very professional and also the living ones who have their lives on the line for going to work at such places everyday. One way or the other it’s The People who are paying with their life or their money that the government is holding for them. Sadly, common people don’t speak them-self but let the self-serving politicians, local leaders or extremist talk for them, and so the result/outcome of such measures rarely result in peoples favour. People should watch, check and complain on the spot without delay for any such negligence to wake-up the selfish industrialist masters. The company owner should set-up a reward system for secret Whistle Blower, to show his honest intentions for the safety and quality of the life of his workers, who should be loved by him like his children who make him rich and happy!

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