By: Farooq Tariq, Pakistan
One peasant was killed and three injured today on 11th May by the firing on Rangers, the para-military border force, at Okara district. According to the reports, rangers fired at the two villages Chack 4/L and Chack 5/L this morning without any provocation. The two villages are among the top 19 villages of Okara district who are struggling for the ownership rights of the land, they are cultivating for over 100 years.
Amir Ali was standing in front of his house when he suddenly was hit by a bullet by the rangers who were firing indiscriminately at the two villages. The rangers wanted to arrest some peasant leaders at these two villages who are still defiant to continue the struggle. He died on the spot. Three other peasants received bullet injuries at Chack 4/L.
Choudry Abdul Jabar and Mehr Abdul Sattar, the two main leaders of the movement told on telephone that the firing was for over two hours. "It seemed that they were fighting with an enemy country. It was like hell. But we will not bug down and will not abandon our struggle".
The police is refusing to enter the case of murder against the in charge of rangers of the area. The Tenants are refusing to bury the body until the case is registered and a post mortem is conducted under eyes.
There have been large scale arrests of the peasants during the last one week. All these villages have been encircled by the rangers. No one is allowed moving in or going out with harassment or arrests. The rangers want these peasants to pay "Theka" (contract amount) to the military farms administration. The Anjaman Mozareen Punjab (Tenants Association Punjab) has refused to pay Theka as they rightly claim that "paid enough for over 100 years and no more".
On 4/5th May, over 15000 peasants had a protest "sit in" for over 36 hours. The rangers at the time used tear gas and opened fire on the peasantry. The result was that at least 10 were seriously injured. The rangers then released five of the nine arrested tenants. They had promised that if the "sit in" ends they will release all nine. But they did not fulfill the promise. After the end of the "sit in" more repressive measures were used during the last one week. Over 50 peasants arrested during the time and now on 11th May, they have managed to kill one to frighten the peasantry.
The main leaders of AMP are under arrest since April 2nd 2003. They are been involved in dozens of false cases. Several more are in prison for the last two years.
Labour Party Pakistan is organizing a demonstration tomorrow on Monday at 5pm at Lahore Press Club. Similar demonstrations are planned at Rawalpindi and Karachi also.
The leaders of four left parties, National Workers Party, Labour Party, Mazdoor Kissan Party and Communist Party of Pakistan met here on 9th May to discuss the situation and decided to lend all their support for the peasant struggle. Two committees have been formed to see the legal and political side of the struggle and to suggest the possible actions. The leaders of these four parties will address a press conference on Tuesday 13th May to announce the action plan in support of the peasantry.
Several other political parties including Pakistan Peoples Party, Awami National Party have also announced their full support for the struggle of the tenants.
Please send your protest letters and faxes to the following immediately and a copy to Labour Party Pakistan
1. General Pervez Musharaf, President of Pakistan
President`s House, Islamabad, PAKISTAN
Fax: 92-51-9203938 / 9211018
2. Faisal Saleh Hayat, Minister of Interior, Narcotics Division,
R- Block, Pak Secretariat, Islamabad, PAKISTAN
3. Lt. Gen. Khalid Maqbool, Governor of Punjab,
Governor`s House, Lahore, PAKISTAN
4. Diplomatic Representatives of Pakistan in your countries.
We were shocked to learn that one peasant is been killed on 11th May at Okara district. Three others have been injured. There has been a large scale arrests of the peasant during the first 210 days of May 2003.
The four office bearers of Anjuman Muzareen Punjab (Tenants Association Punjab or AMP): Younis Iqbal (Chairman), Dr. Christopher John (General Secretary), Sajid Baluch and Fahim Khan were also arrested by the Okara police on 2 April 2003. We are informed that after twelve days in custody they were charged at the police station of Okara Cantt under sections 186, 353 and 216-A/34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and that they remain in custody at the police station.
We understand that the AMP represents thousands of tenants at the government owned agricultural farms including military farms. At least seven including the present one, activists of the AMP have been killed during the last two years and hundreds of tenant farmers arrested in the struggle for ownership rights to the land which they have cultivated for over one hundred years. It appears that these arrests and killings, under manifestly false charges, are part of a pattern of harassment of tenants. We respectfully request that the charges against the four AMP leaders be dropped and that the detainees be released immediately. We urge you to register a case of murder against the rangers officers responsible. Let the justice take its own route.
The tenant farmers have a right to peacefully protest for their cause, and the national government has a responsibility to respect this right and to ensure that it is protected and promoted by all parts of the apparatus of the State at every level. We urge the national government to be active in ensuring that the harassment and illegal detention of tenant farmers and their families cease.
We further urge the national government to ensure that the military administration of the farms holds talks with the tenants. We respectfully suggest that a solution to the land dispute be found that respects, promotes and fulfills the right to subsistence of the tenant farmers. The tenant farmers make a considerable contribution to Pakistan. We hope that any resolution to the dispute will give due weight to the fact that they have occupied and cultivated the land in question for many decades.
Labour Party Pakistan
40-Abbot Road Lahore, Pakistan
Tel: 92 42 6315162 Fax: 92 42 6301685
Mobile: 92 300 8411945