Statement issued by Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee
Thousands protested on 13th January 2019 against the killing at Bail Gunj agriculture farm run by Army Welfare Trust. The protest took place in front of District police officer at Pakpattan, demanding the registration of a murder case for killing Shamshad , a tenant. (Watch video)
On 12 January, the security guards of Army Welfare Trust opened direct fire on protesting tenants against removal of a electricity transformer that was the lifeline for the agricultural land cultivated by tenant farmers.
One person was killed, 16 others injured, among them one in critical condition.
This is the latest incident in a series of repression of the tenants since 2001, who have been working for over a century on army controlled agri farms and has long been demanding rights over their land.
Over 14 tenants have lost their lives in such incidents. No one responsible for killing these tenants was ever convicted. On the contrary, the normal practice is that murder charges are registered against the leaders of Anjman Mozareen Punjab, the organisation that is leading the campaign for land rights. AMP is one important member of Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee (PKRC).
Over 1900 tenants have been arrested since 2001, nearly 200 of them are peasant women. Hundreds of false criminal cases have been registered against the tenant leaders, three are still in jail including the popular leader Mehar Abdul Sattar, who is now serving a 10 years jail sentence just for the “crime” of organising a demonstration. Another peasant leader Younas Iqbal is also in jail on a false case of dacoity.
The movement is not dying down despite all the repression.
Most of the tenants at Okara Military Farms have refused to pay the crop share to the administration claiming that military in not owner of this land, a claim now accepted by the Okara Military Farms administration. It is Punjab government that owns nearly 28000 acre of agriculture land in Okara and Pakpattan.
At present, the National Commission of Human Rights is dealing a case of gross violation of human rights at the these farms. Latest killing of a tenant adds to the wounds of the poor tenants who are demanding that the 12 acre of land given to them over a century earlier under their cultivation be given to them.
On 9th January 2019, a 14 members Tenants Solidarity Committee (TSC) was established at the office of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan including leading human rights activists. It included representatives of Okara Military Farms, Khanewal Seed Farms and also from civil society organisations including Farooq Tariq, General Secretary of Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee.
After establishing this committee, a counter attack against this initiative was taken at Okara. The tenants leaders whose release were made possible by people’s efforts, were forced by intelligence agencies to address a press conference at Okara Press Club against establishment of this TSC).
Now a new incident of killing of a young tenant has sparked a new wave of mass movement by the peasants this time at Pakpattan.
We demand the arrest of all those responsible for the killing, land rights for all tenants, military out of agri business and land to the tillers.