On 10 May 2019, a public emergency meeting was organized today by the Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement (HKM) at the backdrop of recent budget cuts and plans for privatizing key sectors of education and health by the current government. The meeting was joined by members of various progressive organizations, including Young Doctors’ Association Punjab (YDAP), Progressive Students’ Collective (PSC), Revolutionary Students’ Front (RSF), People’s Students’ Federation (PSF), Labor Education Foundation (LEF), Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC) National Students’ Federation (NSF), Bonded Labor Front, Progressive Academic Collective, PTCL Workers’ Union, Punjabi Council, Baloch Council, and Pashtoon Education Development Movement (PEDM).
The meeting was also attended by lawyers, journalists, progressive activists and students from Lahore University, Government College University (GCU) Forman Christian College (FCC), Punjab University, LUMS and others . It was unanimously agreed upon in the meeting that the recent decisions of privatizing health sectors and cutting HEC’s budget by the current government are extremely problematic and it is imperative for people to stand against every action of such nature. The government is practically handing over the economy to the IMF; its finance advisor and governor of State Bank are people who have lived or are still under IMF’s payroll. As opposed to building an economy of the people, where the rich are taxed and the poor are given relieve, the government is cutting spending in all departments of public welfare, including health and education, in its bid to woo its masters at the IMF.
Speakers including Ammar Ali Jan, Faheem Amir, Niaz Khan, Fahad, Muzammil Kakar, Amna Mawaz Khan, Farooq Tariq, Ghazain, Imran Kamyana, Sibt-e-Hasan, Salman Sikander, Haniya, Ajwa Zulfiqar, Mahar Safdar, Dr. Qasim Awan, Dr. Hamid, Muneeza Jehangir, Haider Kaleem, and Imtiaz Alam spoke at the event. The meeting was chaired by Zahid Ali and Awais Qarni.
All the speakers were highly critical of the government’s decisions, which lie in direct contradiction with its electoral promises, to increase the role of IMF in its financial decision making. Pakistan’s economy currently lies in confusion between Washington and Beijing. Even after clear failures in previous attempts of privatization, such as the PTCL, the government is still seeking to actively privatize all public sectors, and all attempts of criticizing such policy making are met with harsh and extreme mechanisms of repression and censorship. It was unanimously agreed by everyone that it is imperative to organize and stand against all policies which take education and health away from the people.
It was announced in the meeting that a sit-in protest will be held on 24th May 2019 at the office of Higher Education Department Punjab. Furthermore, on the date when the budget for next year (2019-20) will be put forward, a National Day of Action will be held to agitate against attempt to reject public spending in the next year’s budget.