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Strong show of suppport to peasants facing evictions

27. February 2002

by: Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party

On Wednesday, 13th February 2002, in Lahore (Pakistan), a press conference and a large procession was organized by the Communist Workers Peasants Party (CMKP) and ASR Resource Center in collaboration with other progressive organizations. The venue for this event was the Lahore Press Club. The press conference and protest has been held at a critical moment, when the peasants of Pakistan are fighting tooth and nail against the oppression and violence perpetrated on them by the state and feudal lords. On the one hand, the poor peasants of Charsada (Hashtnagar, NWFP) are warding-off a brutal act of forceful evictions from their lands. On the other hand, the military, in alliance with (MNCs), IMF and WTO, is imposing its imperialist-dictated agenda on the poor tenants and small farmers of Okkara, Khanewal, Sargodha and various other areas of the Punjab. They are being deprived of their right to own the land that they till with their immense hard work. Their very survival and means of livelihood are being threatened.

However, in spite of all the despair and desperation, the courageous resistance of the peasants of Hashtnagar, under the leadership of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party, stands out as an example and a sign of hope for not only the rest of the Pakistani peasant brothers and sisters, but also for all the deprived and exploited masses of Pakistan and the world. The press conference and procession provided a good opportunity for CMKP to join hand in hand with other organizations concerned with this issue. ASR Resource Center, in particular, was extremely enthusiastic in its support and solemnly stood side by side with CMKP. Along with ASR, other left / progressive parties and NGOs also gave an appreciable response to the call for solidarity with the peasants of Pakistan. Notable among them were the National Workers Party (NWP) and Labor Party Pakistan (LPP). However, the CMKP is especially grateful to the representatives of Anjuman-e-Mazararin-e-Punjab (Punjab Tenants Organization), whose presence proved to be crucial in effectively communicating to the public and media the oppression and major problems faced by peasants. Our brothers and sisters of Punjab Tenants Organization have put up a spirited fight against the dispossession of peasants from their lands controlled mostly by the military in the province of Punjab.

Firstly, a joint statement by Communist Workers Peasants Party (CMKP), ASR Resource Center and Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP) was presented to all the participants, including the representatives of the press, in the press conference. The demands stipulated in the statement were as follows:

1. Brutal acts of forceful evictions of peasants must be stopped immediately throughout the country and especially in Hashtnagar.
2. All the false anti-terrorist cases registered against peasant leaders, including that on the General Secretary of Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP), Afzal Khamosh, must be withdrawn immediately.
3. The poor tenants of Okkara, Khanewal, Sargodha and those of various other areas of the Punjab be given ownership rights to the lands they till.
4. Arrest the murderers of Punjab Tenants Organization´s leader, Mohammad Bashir, and release the illegally held peasant leader in Pir Wala.
5. Eliminate the big fiefdoms and absentee landlordism, and eradicate all the private jails of the big feudal lords.
6. Interests of small farmers must be guarded against the monopolization of corporate farming, multi-national companies and big feudal lords. Their interests must be protected against the onslaught of IMF, World Bank and WTO´s imperialist policies.

The first speaker in the conference was a peasant leader and CMKP member from Hashtnagar (Charsada), Arab Shah. He presented a detailed account of the history of peasant struggles in Hashtnagar and about the current debacle of the terrorism launched by the state machinery and landlords against the peasants organized under the guidance of CMKP. Over the years, he has been involved in the fight for the defense of poor peasants of and their lands in Hashtnagar. He stated vehemently that all sorts of suppressive measures used by the feudals and state have been ineffective against the determined resistance of the peasants. The battle of Charsada adds yet another chapter to the glorious tradition of struggle of CMKP in Hashtnagar. Comrade Arab Shah also pointed out that the recent battle has been a blessing in disguise for the party, since it has become more organized, energetic and a new wave of revolutionary fervor has spread through it. “Through superior organization and unity, we were able to defeat the feudals and the police. We did not even use arms this time, which is in contrast to previous encounters. However, we are not afraid to us them if we are pushed to the limit. We are ready to fight in each and every way,” he said. He also thanked all the working class parties and organizations who have joined the CMKP in the struggle to eradicate feudalism in Pakistan.

The second speaker in the press conference was Dr. Christopher, President of Punjab Tenants Organization. While highlighting the plight of peasant-tenants in Punjab at the hands of the military, he condemned the killing of peasant leader, Mohammad Bashir. His murder was plotted by Colonel Mohammed Ali of Pakistan Army. He also informed the audience that the military government and police have registered around 400 false cases against the tenants who have been resisting expulsion and fighting for ownership rights of the lands. It was indeed heartening to know that the peasants of Punjab, under the PTO´s sincere leadership, are not only steadfast in their struggle, but are also attracting more and more support. They have increasingly begun to organize themselves on a more radical and militant footing. PTO announced its schedule of protests and hunger strikes in various areas of the Punjab, and invited all the left parties to participate in them.

Syed Azeem, Punjab President of CMKP, in his address to the press conference observed that the current wave of suppression of poor peasants in Pakistan is part of the overall designs of imperialism in the region. He said that imperialism´s most compliant servant in Pakistan is the military, which is currently being used to impose the IMF / WB / WTO policies on the peasantry of Pakistan. The generals have a handsome share in this entire affair as they are eyeing the “crown lands” of the country to get rich and to secure their retirement funds. He also argued that the region of Hashtnagar is a small but a painful thorn in the imperialist designs of USA as it is located very close to the Pak-Afghan border where the US has vital interests. Syed Azeem noted that CMKP, along with other revolutionary and progressive organozations of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, has refused to recognize the new US-supported puppet regime of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. Therefore, CMKP and its stronghold, Hashtnagar, present an undesirable and unpleasant factor in the entire situation confronted by US imperialism and its Pakistani lackeys in the region. It comes as no surprise that the current military regime has engaged CMKP in an unrelenting exercise of peasant evictions and filing of false anti-terrorist cases against leaders and cadres. He firmly re-iterated the demands of the immediate halting of peasant evictions from Hashtnagar and all other areas in Pakistan, and the withdrawal of all false anti-terrorist cases filed against CMKP leaders and cadres, including the one filed against General Secretary, Afzal Khamosh.

The President of National Workers Party, Abid Hassan Manto, expressed his agreement with Syed Azeem´s statement and stressed on the importance of participation of all progressive and working class organizations of Pakistan in this struggle. He suggested that a peasant solidarity campaign should be launched at the national level. The General Secretary of Labor Party Pakistan, Farooq Tariq, elaborated on the struggle of tenants against their ejection from military-controlled farmlands in Okkara and Khanewal. He also expressed solidarity with the peasants of Hashtnagar. The last speaker was Nighat Said Khan, the Executive Director of ASR Resource Center. She paid a glowing tribute to the role of peasant women in all the peasant struggles in Pakistan and especially that in Hashtnagar. She stressed that the sacrifices of women in all, past and present, peasant struggles in Pakistan should not be ignored or forgotten. Without their involvement the peasant struggles can neither be initiated nor sustained. She unequivocally rejected the anti-peasant government policies and termed them as imperialist, gender biased and extremely harmful to the interests of peasant women in Pakistan.

After the press conference, the participants staged a sit-in outside the Lahore Press Club because riot police was preventing them to go on to the road. The police was threatening to use violence to stop the protestors and was not letting them distribute leaflets and display banners and placards. However, the protesters continued handing out leaflets and displaying of banners and placards. The red flags and banners of CMKP were most prominent amongst them. The protestors were chanting slogans such as “Salutations to the Courage of Peasants of Hashtnagar!”, Revolution is the Solution!”, “Stop the Evictions of Poor Peasants of Hashtnagar, Okkara, Khanewal and Sargodha!” A great number of students were also present to show solidarity with the peasants of Hashtnagar and Punjab. Female students, in particular, were very vocal in supporting the brave peasant women of Hashtnagar who have recently fought against the recent aggression by the police and feudals, and protected their lands and crops.

This expression of solidarity from all revolutionary and progressive organizations was truly unforgettable. There is an urgent need for all concerned organizations to co-ordinate and form a large alliance to initiate a national level movement in Pakistan.