Labour rights activist Karamat Ali passes away at 78

Piler executive director has played significant role for peace in South Asia particularly between Pakistan, India

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Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (Piler) Executive Director Karamat Ali in a still taken from a video uploaded on May 1, 2021. —Screengrab/ Facebook/@PILERPakistan
  • Karamat Ali is survived by two daughters and a son.
  • Rights activist to be laid to rest at Wadi-e-Hussain cemetery.
  • Piler says he was tireless advocate for working class.

KARACHI: After fighting for labour rights for decades, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) Executive Director Karamat Ali passed away at the age of 78 in Karachi on Thursday.

A family member of the deceased told Geo News that Ali was admitted to a private hospital for treatment of an illness. The labour rights activist is survived by two daughters and a son, the family member added.

As per the family, Ali’s funeral prayer would be offered after Maghrib prayer at Imambargah Shuhada e Karbala, Ancholi, and he would be laid to rest at Wadi-e-Hussain cemetery on Superhighway.

“A tireless advocate for the working class, his dedication to labour rights and social justice has left an indelible mark on our community,” Piler stated, announcing death of the activist.

Multiple high-profile personalities and organisations expressed condolences over Ali’s demise.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah prayed for patience of the bereaved family and the departed soul’s elevation in heaven.

Expressing sorrow over the unionist’s death, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said he was an asset to the nation and his efforts for labourers’ rights were worthy of being followed.

“Karamat Ali’s services will never be forgotten. I pray, may Allah (SWT) grant Karamat Ali maghfirat and bless him with rehmat,” he said.

He condoled the deceased’s family and prayed for their patience.

Former president Arif Alvi said on X: “(Ali was) An outstanding labour activist, author, ever smiling and humble man, always engaged with dignity, represented Pakistan in international conferences as a very well informed person to be proud of, was a treasure of knowledge and an embodiment of pain for the struggle of the labour classes.

“What a loss. The labour movement has lost ground to naked exploitative capitalism, I wish there were more like him to ensure the rights of the struggling, hard working workers of the world.”

Former state minister for health Zafar Mirza said he had lost a very close-to-his-heart friend.

“A real comrade in arms. I learnt so much from him. World should be proud that Karamt passed through it. While passing he left a deep impact on so many minds and lives. I don’t know anybody else who believed as strongly and worked so incessantly for labour rights, peace and democracy. A true believer in South Asia. A man with a heart of gold.

“Thank you Karamt for what you did, how you spent your life in the service of people and, Goodbye with love, my dear friend, I will miss you dearly,” he tweeted.

Mourning the passing of labour rights activist, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said Ali’s contribution to labour rights in Pakistan and in the wider South Asian region would not be easily matched.

“Ali spent decades advocating tirelessly for the rights of bonded labourers, migrant workers, peasants and industrial workers. He was a staunch advocate for the right to collective bargaining and social security for workers. As a labour leader in his earlier days, he was committed to the idea that trade unions should be equipped with education and training to function more effectively,” the HRCP wrote on X.


As per Piler, Ali was the founding member of Piler and had been part of peace and labour movements in the country for several decades.

"He was founding member of some other platforms as well including Pakistan Peace Coalition, Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy and South Asia Labour Forum," said Piler.

He played a key role in highlighting those platforms at regional and global level.

In May 1982, Ali, with a group of concerned professionals, laid the foundation of Piler to promote a labour movement through research, education and advocacy.

He has written numerous articles on labour and peace affairs for academic journals and the national media.

"Ali has played a significant role for peace in South Asia particularly between Pakistan and India," said the Piler. He is a founding member of People’s SAARC and Pakistan Peace Coalition. He also served as the convener of South Asian Labour Forum, Pakistan Chapter.

He was a member of the International Advisory Committee, Hague Appeal for Peace, and International Council World Social Forum (WSF). He was the focal person of Labour Rights Regional Thematic Group of South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE), which is an alliance of trade unions, civil society organisations, journalists, academics, trade unionists and human rights activists.

Ali was conferred upon with the Didi Nirmala Deshpandae South Asian award for Peace and Justice in 2013, in recognition of his lifelong efforts for South Asian Peace and Cooperation.

He is also a recipient of an Award Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA), 2008. He was awarded Bulleh Shah Award in 2007.