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Unions & Youth Announce Protest Movement Against “Anti-Poor” & “IMF-Dictated” Budget

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A number of organizations came together in Lahore today to announce the launch of a new movement against what they termed as the government’s “anti-poor” budget. Representatives from more than 30 trade unions, student groups, journalists’ unions and women’s organizations came together in a day-long moot – which resulted in a press conference to announce the launch of the Awami Action Committee (AAC).

The participants in the AAC have pledged themselves to highlighting what they describe as the “anti-people” nature of the upcoming federal and provincial budgets in June 2020.

Speakers at today’s moot took the view that the government is commitment to a policy of obeying the imperatives set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international financial institutions. This austerity-based approach, along with privatization, can only lead to unemployment and rising prices of essential goods for ordinary people, according to the AAC.

Participants in the newly formed AAC have promised a show of strength on the streets: they plan to organize a mass rally on the 5th of April in Lahore, to highlight public opposition to the budgetary priorities and economic policies of the government. Subsequently, there will be a similar rally in Karachi. The AAC aims to bring thousands of working people and youth to the street around that time.

Moreover, the newly formed organization is working on a People’s Budget to demonstrate that alternative, pro-people and poor-friendly budgets are possible. A federal-level People’s Budget is being drawn up by renowned economist Dr. Kaiser Bengali and equivalent provincial-level alternative budgets will also be prepared by the AAC. The organization intends to present its alternative People’s Budget to the Pakistani people around the same time as the government announces its own budget.

The series of demonstrations and popular mobilizations by the AAC could expland to include a mass protest march on foot. The participants in today’s moot stated that a special effort will be made to take on board the demands of smaller provinces and marginalized national groups.

Veteran journalists and experienced trade union leaders spoke at length about harsh conditions under the current economic situation, as well as restrictions on employees forming unions to bargain collectively for their rights. The journalists present also highlighted restrictions on reporting and a general atmosphere of censorship, which prevented discussion on issues of public interest.

The 25-member Awami Action Committee (AAC) includes representatives from the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC), All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF), All Pakistan Irrigation Labour Federation, Punjab PWD Employees Association, Mutahida Labour Federation, Mehnatkash Labour Federation Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Bhatta Mazdoor Union, Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Punjab Professors and Lecturers Association (PPLA), Women Democratic Front (WDF), Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement (HKM), Progressive Students Collective (PSC), Labour Education Foundation, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ), Young Doctors Association (YDA), Aurat March, Inquilabi Mahaz-e-Tuleba and Berozgar Naujawan Tehreek.

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Naya Daur