Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Pakistan (FES Pakistan), in collaboration with Public Service International (PSI) successfully organized a “Public Hearing on Privatization and Public Debt in Pakistan" on September 15, 2023. The event aimed to address the pressing issues related to privatization policies and public debt and their impact on workers' rights and public welfare in the country.
The public hearing commenced with opening remarks from Mr. Abdullah Dayo, Programme Advisor of FES Pakistan, who warmly welcomed the distinguished panelists including the members of the Privatization Commission, PSI officials and senior labour leaders of trade unions in Pakistan.
Kate Lapin, Regional Secretary of Public Services International (PSI) for Asia-Pacific, ardently voiced her concerns about the adverse effects of privatization policies. Drawing attention to the impact of privatization on public services, low-income families, and marginalized groups. She highlighted that Pakistan is at a turning point. She added that taxing people and not corporations is needed to build a resilient economy with resilient public services. Social dialogue has to be a fundamental premise for any decisions regarding privatization and public services, she added. On this occasion, a report on the “Impact of foreign debt on labour rights in Pakistan” was also launched. While sharing the salient features of the report, the author, Zulfiqar Shah, shared that despite a very high debt level of 124 billion dollars social indicators are not improving.
Dr. Aliya Hashmi, a renowned senior economist, stressed the need to strike a balance between public-centric and private-centric norms and called for united efforts to protect workers' rights.
Mr. Iqbal Detho, Chairperson of Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC), outlined SHRC's mandate of promoting and protecting human rights. He shared recent human rights policy developments, including legal actions taken by the SHRC against human rights abuses in both public and private establishments, as well as the inclusion of labour laws in legal aid services. He affirmed his commitment to working as a bridge between civil society and the government to address human rights violations.
Mr. Shahbaz Jameel, member of the Privatization Commission of Government of Pakistan, said that the laws are made, challenged and sometimes found wrong. He assured the senior leadership of Pakistan’s labour leaders that the Privatization Commission will look into the concerns raised during the public hearing.
Mr. Naveed Qamar, former Federal Minister for Commerce, said that the dialogue on privatization must be conducted on a regular basis. He highlighted that the government’s decision making is highly affected by the dire economic situation in the country.
The public hearing witnessed active participation from over 30 trade unions and workers' organizations. Their testimonies and experiences were instrumental in highlighting the challenges faced by workers due to privatization policies. Veteran trade unionists including Mr. Khursheed Ahmed, Mr. Sultan Khan Mr. Habib-ud-din Junaidi, Mr. Karamat Ali, Chaudhry Mouhammad Yaseen and gave a voice to these challenges at the forum.
FES Pakistan's commitment to addressing these issues and collaborating with PSI and other organizations to support workers' rights and promote public welfare was reiterated throughout the event. The shared experiences and recommendations from this public hearing will be documented and presented to political decision makers, international financial institutions and the UN’s Committee on Foreign Debt as part of the collective effort to find solutions to the challenges posed by privatization in the region.
About Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Pakistan Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Pakistan is a platform that promotes social democracy, worker's rights, gender equality, and human rights in Pakistan. Established in 1925, FES Pakistan continues to work towards fostering a just and equitable society.
About Public Service International (PSI) Public Service International (PSI) is a global trade union federation representing over 30 million public service workers worldwide. PSI works to defend public services, fight privatization, and promote workers' rights and decent working conditions.
Panelist of the Public Hearing:
1. Syed Naveed Qamar, Former Federal Minister
2. Shahbaz Jameel, Member, Privitazation Commission, Government of Pakistan
3. Kate Lapin, Regional Secretary, Public Services International (PSI)
4. Iqbal Detho, Chairperson of Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC)
5. Dr. Aliya Hashmi, Senior Economist
6. Abdullah Dayo, Program Advisor, FES Pakistan
7. Zulfiqar Shah, Member SHRC
8. Mohammad Tahseen, Chairman Board, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund