At least 289 textile workers in Karachi and 25 shoe makers in Lahore died due to factory fires on Tuesday. This is the biggest loss of worker lives due to factory fires in Pakistan in some decades. The cruel negligence of governments in Sindh and Punjab and also of the federal government has resulted in such a huge loss of lives of the poorest of the poor.
Looking at the factories engulfed with fire on television, I could imagine the working conditions inside these factories, with very small work spaces for each worker, no proper ventilation system, only one exit, no fire safety equipment and an atmosphere full of chemicals. This is the horrifying situation that still exists in many thousand other small factories in Pakistan's largest cities. Sindh and Punjab are both provinces that have had a ban on the labour inspection of factories until last year. Even still, the labour department officials cannot inspect the factories without prior approval from the employer. In addition, rampant corruption within labour departments deprives workers of their basic rights.