Had the opportunity to participate in the commemoration of POF Martyr workers of 1957, organized by PTUDC and Ghaffar Khan Friends Association on 25 September in Wah Cantt. They were tragically shot by state police during a hunger strike where they were protesting for their rights.
POF – Pakistan Ordinance Factories make export quality firearms, ammunition, defence products, commercial explosives and industrial chemicals and falls under the Ministry of Defence Pakistan. The workers who work here suffer through inhumane working conditions, and receive no or malfunctioning safety equipment, minimum wage or health care. Those who work here for a prolonged period of time, remain exposed to harmful radiation which results in cancer or severe chemical burns after which they are disposed off without severance or proper health care.
In 1957 the POF factory workers were protesting similar working conditions which have remained unchanged since then. This incident is one of the countless acts of state brutality and violence to crush any movement where workers demand their rights, as it digs into their profits.
When workers are deprived of safety equipment, humane working conditions, a living wage, and healthcare, it’s not due to a lack of resources, but rather because the elite appropriates the profits generated by labor for their own luxuries and extravagance. The luxury and extravagance, the big weddings, boats, yachts, Instagram profiles filled with designer know that most of the time it came from robbing a worker of basic rights and making him suffer his entire life in horrible conditions and is not something to be envied but mourned and struggled against. Weather it is a coal miner who developed Miners’ nystagmus or the POF worker who suffered chemical burns, got cancer and received no health care, weather it is their children who then suffer their parent’s fate not because God willed it so but because the capitalist class hunger for profit demanded it so- this capitalist economic structure and its ruling elite are directly and entirely responsible.
The Chicago Massacre is not an isolated incident in history; instead, workers worldwide face bullets and bloodshed when they demand their rights. The POF worker’s struggle serves as a monumental reminder of the workers’ movement, their formidable power, and their political consciousness, which has been systematically suppressed in the years since and completely erased from our history. On this day and throughout the year we remember the real “Shuhada” (Martyrs) the ones who fought for the rights and liberation of the downtrodden. The real hero is the politically conscious working class itself.