Scores of progressive political workers, intellectuals, students, trade unionists and working class residents of the twin cities held a protest demonstration outside the National Press Club on Sunday as part of a countrywide day of action to demand urgent action to tackle climate change. Organised by the Awami Workers Party (AWP), Progressive Students Federation (PrSF) and Women’s Democratic Front (WDF), the protest centred the theme ‘System Change, not Climate Change’ so as to highlight how the existing capitalist economic system is based on unbridled profiteering and unsustainable consumption that are destroying eco-systems across Pakistan. Protestors also heavily criticised mainstream political parties and the establishment for being concerned only with cynical tussles for power as the window for meaningful redress of long-term climate change effects rapidly closes.
Speaking on the occasion, AWP deputy general secretary Aasim Sajjad said that over the past few weeks Pakistan has experienced an unprecedented heat wave, a growing water crisis, especially in Sindh, Siraiki Wasaib and Balochistan, as well as rapid glacier melts in Gilgit-Baltistan which have triggered flash floods. He said that these alarming developments remain grossly underreported in the mainstream media while millions of small and landless farmers and working masses in general are literally starving to death as their crops fail and they are deprived even of sufficient drinking water. Meanwhile landlords, real estate barons, construction mafias alongside civil and military bureaucrats who dominate politics are concerned only with maintaining their power and privilege at the cost of working people and the environment.
WDF general secretary Anam Rathore said that the major effects of global warming and climate change, especially for the working poor, is borne by women. She said that the destruction of local ecologies reflects both class privilege and patriarchal domination, and futures of the vast majority of Pakistan’s youthful population is at stake. None of the players in our establishment-centric political system are concerned with the future of the 150 million Pakistanis below the age of 25, and so this populations must put in its lot to build a mass political movement to dismantle colonial capitalism.
Shah Rukn-e-Alam of the PrSF said that it is a sign of hope that more and more young people are increasingly drawn to progressive ideas and choosing to stand up against dispossession, hateful politics and land-, water- and forest-grabs. He said that parties like the PTI claim to speak for young people but in fact offer them no vision to deal with the imminent spiritual, political and economic crises of their adulthood. He said that it is now only progressives that can link everyday struggles of working class communities for affordable housing, gainful employment and dignity of life to a politics to save humanity and nature.
Aasim Sajjad added that it is essential to understand that the climate crisis is a global phenomenon. India too is undergoing a heat wave, while declining harvests of food crops like wheat are having major ripple effects across the world. Yet the western imperialist countries refuse to acknowledge their historical crimes by reducing carbon emissions and reigning in fossil fuel production. He said that it is no use simply raising hollow slogans like those around Imran Khan, and only progressives can foment a genuine anti-imperialist politics to both challenge local and global profiteers and to bring working masses together across the world.
Other organisations who participated in the protest included Aurat Azadi March Islamabad, Climate Action Pakistan, Fridays for Future Pakistan and Muttahida Awami Movement. The demonstration ended with a dramatic ‘death’ protest where all participants lay strewn on the floor with placards to explain their symbolic death due to various kinds of fallout from climate change.