Reminiscence : Tufail Abbas, a veteran labour leader as I remember - Dr Malem Ningthouja

Reminiscence : Tufail Abbas, a veteran labour leader as I remember - Dr Malem Ningthouja
Tufail Abbas (1927 - 2019)

I came to know about Tufail Abbas through the journal Revolutionery Democracy. In 2003 I had an opportunity to visit him in Karachi. He was then the Chair of Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz (Pakistan workers Front) and the Chief Editor of Urdu monthly, Awami Manshoor. He invited me to a lunch at his home and introduced me to several trade union leaders. There were several trade unions affiliated to PMM and I was given an opportunity to visit some of the factories to interact with union workers.

In a factory related to manufacturing electrical appliances, I discovered hundreds of workers were well unionized to the extent that rules of dining and dietary strictly adhered to the norms created in the interest of the workers. The price of lunch per head (rice, roti, meat, vegetables, and any two varieties of fruits) for a worker was fixed at Re.1 only. Everyone in the factory, including the highest managerial class, workers, and other menial labors shared the same food and the same dining hall. There was no class distinction in food and seat allocation. I also discovered that the concerned trade union had a well-organized system of generating income outside the factory, distribution of pension among retired workers, and investment in human resources to provide services amongst the union members. It was done by accumulating principal capital through an absolute appropriation from the government scheme of a one-time pension of the retiring workers.

The system worked very well, as each of the pensioners was ensured monthly return while at the same time qualified candidates were sent abroad for professional training such as doctors, lawyers, and so on. In all these Tufail Abbas had some roles. His influence spread far and wide across Pakistan. He was respected by trade union members, peasant leaders, and parties in Punjab (Pakistan). His legacy and leadership were not disputed by the leaders of Mazdoor Kissan Party in Pakistan. When he visited New Delhi in the late 2000s, his revolutionary internationalism was warmly appreciated by Revolutionary Democracy, New Trade Union Initiatives, Committee on Human Rights (Manipur) and several other organizations and parties. In his demise in 2019, we lost a great leader who could have brought to a higher level the people’s democratic movement in Pakistan and beyond.

Dr Malem Ningthouja, Author TKT