At 73 years of age, Sirajul Abidein’s struggle for human rights, especially the rights of labourers and journalists, has not abated one bit.
Affiliated with Daily Jasarat for the last 30 years and reporting extensively on labour issues, Abidein spoke to Sabaat about his work and journey over the decades.
Born in Aligarh, India in 1948, Abidein migrated to Pakistan in 1964 after the death of his father. He finished his education in 1971 by completing a diploma in mechanical technology from Jinnah Poly Technique Karachi. He then became involved in the struggle for labour rights.
Known among his friends and colleagues as ‘Qazi Siraj’, he criticises both civilian and military governments for doing nothing to resolve the issues of labourers and journalists, and instead crushing their unions when they protested government policies. During his struggle, Abidein has faced several threats to his life, including being locked up in the Artillery Maidan Police Station in Karachi while covering a labour protest.
Expressing grave concern about the widespread violation of labour laws across public and private sectors, he shared that industrialists recruit labourers in their factories and overburden them with work in violation of rules. Workers are also not inducted as permanent employees so as to curtail provision of labour rights to them. Similarly, very few companies provide the state-approved minimum wage of Rs17,500 per month to their workers, he lamented further.
Moreover, Abidein complained that violations of labour laws remain stuck in courts for years if not decades, while bodies responsible for upholding the rights of labourers are severely lacking.
Abidein knows that the struggle is far from over but he has vowed to continue fighting until his last breath. As a working journalist, he commends journalists’ unions for always standing alongside labour unions but acknowledged that media coverage of labourers’ issues remains lacking.