Chinese workers injured in Baluchistan suicide attack
At least five—including three Chinese mining workers—suffered injuries when the van they were riding in was attacked by a suicide bomber outside Dalbandin, southwest of Quetta.
The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), a separatist group, claimed responsibility, one of a number of attacks in the region targeting Chinese-backed projects in the region.
Chinese migrant workers in Pakistan number in the tens of thousands, with the Pakistani government seeking to grow the region’s infrastructure and the Chinese government expanding its Belt and Road initiative throughout Asia.
Thousands rally against anti-Pashtun violence in Karachi
The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) has emerged as a nonviolent ethnic rights group confronting abuse and neglect by Pakistan’s security apparatus, recently invigorated by the killing of Pashtun youth Naqibullah Mehsud in January.
Despite a government ban and media censorship, PTM recently staged rallies across the country in cities including Lahore and Karachi, the latter of which is home to Pakistan’s largest Pashtun community and the location of Mehsud’s killing.
Demonstrators rallied against enforced disappearances (numbering in the thousands, according to some claims), extrajudicial killings, and other human rights abuses against the Pashtun community, who make up 15% of the Pakistani population.
By way of Pakistan’s landmark 2017 census, some 10,000 transgender Pakistanis have become officially visible in the eyes of the government, though community organizers say the number is likely much larger. Illiteracy, poverty, disenfranchisement, trafficking, threats to sexual health, and the dangers of unregulated sex work plague Pakistan’s trans women (khawaja siras, a reclaimed term in the trans community), but the recent securing of legal protections have given hope to a community where precarity reigns.
While communities of trans women have provided kinship and security where mainstream society has offered a mix of scorn and fetish, hierarchical systems within the communities have layered additional vulnerabilities upon threats already faced. The women have organized and built security-focused civil groups, and the last decade has seen a number of victories including census recognition, a third-gender option on ID cards, limited economic investments, and technological and political tools for accountability in law enforcement. Some hardline conservatives have become unlikely allies as trans women are seen among some Islamic sects as holy, though they have stopped short of supporting partnership rights. Recent international media coverage has highlighted recent gains as well as ongoing insecurity for Pakistan’s increasingly visible trans community.
A form of indentured servitude persists in the vast fields of Pakistan’s poorest regions, where families labor on lands to pay off debts whose balance never seems to decrease. But while men may find their “payments” limited to hard labor, women and girls find themselves vulnerable not only to physical labor, but to domestic, sexual, and even marital labor forced under conditions of extreme duress. Religious minorities are particularly vulnerable, with an estimated 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls trafficked as a result of these debts, sold off to predatory landowners and forced to convert to Islam. The Associated Press examines the conditions faced by the more than 2 million Pakistanis living in what human rights organizations have called modern-day slavery and the particular indignities to which women and girls are subjected.
The Subversive Visibility of Pakistan’s First Trans Model
Activist and model Kami Sid was the subject of a recent photo shoot in collaboration with photographer Haseeb M. Siddiqi, stylist Waqar J.Khan, and makeup artist Nighat Misbah, making her debut as the first out trans model in Pakistan. The photographs stand in stark contrast to the other forms of visibility that has kept the Pakistani trans community in the news in recent years, including sexual assaults and homicides. BuzzFeed features photos from the shoot and a look at the struggle to combat transphobia in Pakistan.
Pakistan court stays expulsion order for Turkish teachers following school closure
The Peshawar High Court temporarily blocked the government’s expulsion of more than 100 teachers at the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges, a network of private schools in the country, and their families.
The closure of the schools comes as a result of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ongoing purge of organizations perceived as connected to exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, leaning on Turkey’s relationship with Pakistan to push the government to close the schools.
The administration has rejected the accusations, and staff have expressed fear at returning to Turkey, believing continued government antagonism awaits them.
Shopkeeper arrested for selling shoes with sacred Hindu symbol
The shoes contained the “Om” symbol, a spiritual icon in Hinduism, prompting protests and leading to the man’s arrest in the town of Tando Adam in Sindh province, home to most of Pakistan’s Hindu minority.
Though strictest for crimes insulting Islam, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws allow for the arrest of those accused of offense to any religion, including Hinduism.
Police indicated no offense had been intended and a shift in focus to the shoes’ suppliers, but if convicted, the shopkeeper faces up to 10 years in prison.
One of the few truly global holidays, International Workers’ Day (May Day) is both a worldwide celebration of the working classes as well as a day to draw attention to ongoing insecurities workers around the world face. May Day has historically had a twofold purpose: a day for workers to voice their concerns over contentious labor policies and for governments to reaffirm their commitments to workers’ rights and just labor practices. At times little more than public relations campaigns and at others violent clashes between governments and workers, global May Day events have highlighted the diverse relationships between labor, employers, and government around the world. Here are the highlights of May Day 2016 in more than 30 countries:
Bike rallies were held in Pune as Indian PM Narendra Modi saluted workers on Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas, a public holiday. Pakistan‘s major labor unions convened in Lahore to speak out against poor working conditions, violations of international labor conventions, and ongoing privatization in the country. As Bangladeshi officials addressed labor relations and welfare reforms amidst a day of union-organized programming, in Kathmandu, Nepali workers marched while awaiting the ratification of the Labour Act, which guarantees greater social security for workers. Across the Indian Ocean, Australian union leader singled out penalty rate protection and tax reform as major Labour Day issues, with the date of the holiday having been a point of contention as well.
In cities across France, tens of thousands marched in protest against proposed labor reforms that would loosen the country’s controversial employment and job security policies. Jeremy Corbyn became the first U.K. Labour party leader to attend a May Day rally in a half-century when he spoke to a crowd of thousands in London, reaffirming solidarity against anti-immigrant sentiment and addressing anti-Semitism accusations that have plagued his party recently. Spain saw thousands across its cities gather, many protesting ongoing austerity measures. An estimated 800,000 gathered in Rome‘s San Giovanni Square, with this year’s event dedicated to slain Italian student Giulio Regeni.
Some 2,000 convened in rain-soaked Zagreb to hear labor leaders protest the increased retirement age and ongoing poverty in Croatia. Moscow hosted a mass demonstration in the city’s Red Square estimated in size from the tens of thousands to 100,000, while thousands gathered in Istanbul’s Bakirköy district under a heavy police presence in the wake of urban suicide attacks and ongoing violence across Turkey.
From New York to Los Angeles, demonstrations in the U.S. highlighted widening economic inequality in the country and an election season marred by racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic sentiment. While most protests took place without incident, a peaceful march turned violent in Seattle, leading to five injured officers and nine arrests. A similar outbreak in Montreal led to one injury and 10 arrests.
In Latin America, Brazil‘s embattled president and Workers’ Party leader Dilma Roussef rallied alongside hundreds of thousands across the country as her impeachment proceedings continue and workers fear the inauguration of her center-right vice president. Cuba‘s May Day parade continued the national tradition of expressing support for the Castro regime rather than directly celebrating labor or expressing concerns over labor conditions. In Argentina, President Mauricio Macro backed employers and touted labor proposals that had spurred mass demonstrations only days before. Elsewhere in the region, minimum wage increases were announced in Venezuela and Bolivia and a march took place in Santiago as Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced a review of her labor reforms after the Supreme Court rejected a key provision granting exclusive negotiating rights to unions.
Middle East & Africa
Police in Egyptblocked hundreds of workers from assembling in a Cairo office as labor leaders and international organizations called for the government to decriminalize independent union organization. In Israel, more than 5,000 youth marched in Tel Aviv, while a Palestinian trade union renewed its call for the establishment of a minimum wage and the dismantlement of the Gaza blockade. A government-sponsored event in Dubai reportedly drew nearly 200 workers, though labor practices in the UAE continue to draw international scrutiny.
South of the Sahara, events popped up across South Africa as politicians sought to address the country’s high unemployment rate and appeal to workers ahead of August elections. In Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari spoke to thousands of workers in Abuja, touting his anti-corruption campaign. A Mozambique labor leader addressed a crowd in Maputo about the debts of state-owned companies and the need for wage and workplace reform. As the decline of oil prices has created economic hardship throughout Angola, the country’s two labor unions marched to draw attention to deteriorating worker conditions and the need for infrastructure maintenance. Workers in Ghana protested the privatization of the management of the state-owned Electric Company of Ghana, while the government insisted the company was still run by the state. Meanwhile, Ethiopia sidestepped Sunday commemorations altogether by moving May Day to May 3, when labor leaders plan to highlight ongoing struggles to organize Ethiopian workers.