Karamat Ali – A Farewell Celebrating His Life and Following His Mission of a Just and Equal World

22 June 2024

We are deeply saddened by the demise of our long-standing comrade, Karamat Ali, on the 20th of June 2024. He was an icon of the labour movement in Pakistan, inspiring countless people to continue their fight for their rights and to create a just and equal society.

The passing of Karamat Ali is a significant loss for the labour movement in Pakistan. As one of our best trade union leaders in the region, his absence leaves a gap that will be difficult to fill. His dedication and passion for labour rights have left an indelible mark on all who knew him. We are committed to keeping our spirits and commitment high to follow the path he laid out for us.

Karamat’s presence in various SAAPE meetings right from its founding days meant the consistent participation of Pakistan inside SAAPE, irrespective of geo-political implications for the region and-especially in relation to SAARC. Karamat was above petty nationalist considerations and consistently argued for a visa free South Asia. Quite often the theme led to many related propositions emerging in this, chief among which were -a confederation of South Asia which would not affect the Sovereignty of any South Asian country and yet facilitate a new kind of constitutionalism for our region. Karamat lent valuable support to this idea and always backed it up with the accompanying proposal that all competitive military expenditure should be ended and diverted towards extending social security to the citizens of South Asia. Peace and Labour movements were central to his vision of a progressive South Asia. Advancing labour equality through research was something Karamat valued as an idea. His institution building as an idea was inclusive of advancing both labour rights as well as research into the conditions of work. Many young people gained from his insights on a united and emancipated South Asia, poverty free with citizens enjoying labour rights and free passage across South Asia.

He was a recipient of several awards, notably the Didi Nirmala Deshpandae South Asian Award for Peace and Justice in 2013 and the Award – Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA) in 2008 and the Bulleh Shah Award in 2007. Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Reserach (PILER) continues to be one of the lead institutions for advancing the labour movement by way of  research, education, and advocacy. He was instrumental in forming the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), marking a significant achievement among several others in his career. 

“From the platform of PILER, Karamat Sahab joined forces with several like-minded activists and was able to help workers in garment factories and the Pakistan Steel Mills, home-based workers, the families of the Baldia factory fire victims, who were able to receive some compensation, little consolation though for losing their loved ones.

He raised his voice against child labour, bonded labour, migrant labour, peasants, against the third-party contractual system, low minimum wages, the need for unionisation, and so many other relevant causes. In short, he devoted his entire life to fighting for the cause of marginalised people and those deprived of their lawful rights by leading many labour movements.”
-DAWN, 22.06.24 (https://www.dawn.com/news/1840930/labour-rights-activist-karamat-ali-laid-to-rest)

“A tireless advocate for the working class, his dedication to labor rights and social justice has left an indelible mark on our community.”
– Farooq Tariq, Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee (PKRC); Advisor, SAAPE.

Over the years, his insightful words during the SAAPE gatherings and his unwavering commitment to justice were a source of inspiration to all the members of SAAPE.  We extend our heartfelt condolences to his comrades and family. His contributions to the labour movement and his personal interactions with many of us will always be remembered. Karamat would have wanted that his ideas on a united, poverty free South Asia continue to be valued and struggled for.

Farewell Comrade!

Members of the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)

Photo credits: PILER Pakistan, Aabida Ali

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