Occupy movement spreads to Pakistan

Press conference announcing Occupy Lahore. Photo: Links.org.au

Left-wing political parties, trade unions, social activists and student groups at a press conference in the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) office invited people to join them in an Occupy Lahore anti-capitalist camp at Nasir Bagh in the city centre. The camp will continue for at least two days. A program for the camp will be announced soon.

The camp is being set up in solidarity with the worldwide Occupy movement and the growing unrest among peoples caused by the global economic recession.

Addressing the press conference, Progressive Youth Front representative Ammar Ali Jaan honoured October 15, when the world stood against the capitalist financial system.

This unrest has been developing since 2008, as people believed governments would take to task those responsible for causing the global financial crisis.

However, governments gave billions of dollars to bail out financial institutions and corporations at the cost of the masses. In Pakistan, which is facing numerous ordeals like price hikes, electricity and gas shortages, and there is a realisation that the system that was preserved by governments has failed us as well and must be overturned.

Lawyer Misha Rehman said: “Very rarely do moments arise when we can get together as a community for dialogue. The purpose of the camp is to provide that space where people can discuss everyday issues, criticise existing systems and find solutions through sustainable engagements.

“One of the slogans the Occupy movements has taken up is: ‘We, the 99% of the world, stand up against the 1%.’ We understand that the 99% needs to formulate its political voice and this will be an opportunity for the people to formulate a political voice.”

Workers’ Party Pakistan vice-president Naeem Shakir stated that almost 50% of the general population has been swallowed by poverty. He said: “Our view is that this space will give the silenced a voice and the hope is to find a long-term plan and vision for Pakistanis who are suffering at the hands of status quo mainstream parties.”

He said “the camp hopes to encourage people to leave their house and discuss the issues in a progressive environment”.

LPP spokesperson Farooq Tariq appealed to the residents of Lahore and its neighbouring localities to join the camp at Nasir Bagh. He said the National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan Trade Union Federation, railway workers, PTCL, Katchi Abadi alliances, the National Student Federation, Muttahida Labour Federation, the Progressive Youth Forum and other progressive groups have confirmed participation.
The speakers announced discussions were already underway in Islamabad, Karachi, Faisalabad, Mianwali and Okara to hold similar events.