Jinnah writes to the Prime Minister
Express Tribune, 20 December, 2020
Dear Prime Minister,
I had to bid farewell soon after completing my task on August 14, 1947 – hopefully to rest in peace. I would have been happy with a modest grave, to quote Christina Rossetti, “with no roses at my head, nor shady cypress trees: Just the green grass above me, with showers and dewdrops wet.” I was thus somewhat uneasy to see my peace compromised by a magnificent majestic marble structure, which must have been a huge burden on the generosity of a country where 80 million people lived below the poverty line.
I write this letter to share with you my admiration for the numerous sanitary
workers, gardeners and guards who remain perpetually busy in cleaning,
greening and guarding the building and the courtyard yard around my grave. They do an excellent job and I wish they knew how proud I feel for their devotion to duty. I am certain that the rest of the Pakistanis are also engaged with the same spirit of unreserved commitment towards building this great country.
I am however in a state of great pain and anguish since I received a letter from a security guard who perhaps stands guard at one of the main entrance gates. The letter reads, “ Dear Mr. Jinnah, I am 70 years old and have the honour of working as a security guard at your resting place. We cannot thank you enough for giving us this wonderful homeland. I pray you are always happy and at peace. I however wonder if you could ever be at peace if you knew the torture and misery experienced every day by those who work at your mausoleum. As a private security guard I work for 12 hours every day – for Rs.10,000 pm. The sanitary staff gets Rs.14000 pm for a 12 hour shift and the gardeners receive Rs.9000 for the morning shift. Please Mr.Jinnah, can you arise from your grave, even if it is for just one day, to tell our government that every janitor, every ‘Mali’ and every Guard who works at your mausoleum is paid at least the correct legal minimum wage? On that day, Mr. Jinnah, instead of the VIPs, could you please walk up to the gardeners, the janitors and the guards of your compound to shake hands and pat them before you return to your eternal resting place? Respectfully, a guard.”
Dear Prime Minister, far more than my own pain and anguish are the pathetic working conditions of over a hundred janitors, guards and gardeners who work so close to me. They live a life, (if at all it can be called a life), of misery and torture. You must remember that it is for the state to comply with minimum wage laws and to ensure that no citizen is discriminated on the basis of cast or creed. You may wish to discover how it is that out of 51 contracted janitors, 47 happen to be non-Muslims. Do the Muslims no longer apply for a cleaner’s job?
May I suggest that even before your next meal, you order that the minimum wage of all contracted employees ( janitors, guards and gardeners working at the mausoleum) be raised to at least Rs.17500 for an 8 hour shift and Rs.35000 for those who perform a 12 hours duty. The order must also state that each of these employees be registered with EOBI and given a medical insurance.
Dear Prime Minister, a nation is known by how it treats its ordinary citizens – specially those who are weak and vulnerable. Pakistan can never progress if its parliamentarians and its arrogant elite are forever enriching themselves but are unwilling to pay even the most bare minimum legal wages to the poorest of the poor. I hope you will take immediate steps to correct this huge lacuna between the shining marble of the mausoleum and the sad lives of its caretakers. Pakistan paindabad.