Pakistan
08.08.02
Urgent Interventions

Pakistan: attacks against farmer villages

ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS CONCERN
Case PAK 080802. ESCRC


The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Pakistan.


Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by ACPP-Hotline Asia, a member of the OMCT network, of violent attacks by the police against the farmer villages in Khanewal District, Southern Punjab, Pakistan.

According to the information received, the villages 75, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87/10-R in Pirowal, have been living under a police siege for many days with their supply of water and telephone connections cut off by the administration. It is reported that on 9 June 2002, a massive police contingent of over 1’000 police officers suddenly arrived at village no. 81/82. The police carried out a massive operation at the end of which one tenant farmer had been killed and four other persons seriously wounded. On 11 June 2002, tenant farmers on Multan's military farm were attacked. Five were shot and remained in critical condition for many days. On the same day, tenant farmers in Kala Shah Kaku (near Lahore) were allegedly attacked and required to give up their wheat harvest shares, while being forced to sign contracts by using their thumbprints. After injuring these people, it is reported that the police filed false criminal cases against the people of these villages, particularly the tenant activists. As a result, many are now in jail on false charges.

These repressive measures adopted by the authorities are pushing 20’000 people in Pirowal, Khanewal towards starvation and forcing the remaining hundreds of thousands to endure constant harassment and often direct physical brutality. In such a manner, the tenant farmers are being deprived of their livelihood and land, which they have been cultivating for 100 years.


Background information
Indeed, these events occur against the background of a 100-year struggle for land rights undertaken by the farmers. Today, there are about one million tenant farmers who work on farms owned by the government of Punjab in more than 10 districts across the province, and although these tenants and their ancestors have been cultivating the same land for almost a century, they still have neither legal entitlements over this land, nor effective control. Consequently, there have been various conflicts between the tenant farmers and the state administration due to the non-respect of land rights, the mismanagements of farms by the state agencies and abuses and threats of eventual evictions to which the farmers were submitted. The farmers’ resistance to the violation of their rights was met by repression involving police and military action.
Since 1900, agricultural workers have been cultivating the lands in the villages 75, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87/10-R. When they arrived, the place was all desert or bore wild forests throughout, with no canals to irrigate this part of land. In 1919, the British Government gave out the said lands on a 40-year lease. After independence, under a martial law regulation of 1958/59, 4’516 acres of land were allotted to the agricultural workers working on those lands. Thereafter in 1963, the lands were once again given out to the agricultural workers by the Board of Revenue, Lahore and was registered with the Revenue Department. Finally, in 1977, another 2’214 acres of land were allotted to the agricultural workers under martial law regulation.
However, these decisions were practically not enforced. Instead, in the 1970s, the government of Punjab leased the land to some government departments, supposed to further rent the land to the farmers. In 1976, the Government of Punjab also gave part of the land, amounting to a total 6’630 acres, to and under the supervision of the Punjab Seed Corporation (PSC) that received a free hand in decisions regarding the land's administration.
Thus, due to the non-enforcement of regulations allotting the land to farm workers, the land is de facto controlled by the provincial government, and operated by different government agencies including the military, the livestock department, and the PSC, which have no legal claim over the land.
Besides, over the years, although the PSC and its officials have prospered, the socio-economic condition of the cultivators has not improved. Indeed, under the administration of these governmental agencies, the tenant farmers have reportedly been oppressed. For example, they were given poor quality pesticides, and larger amounts of pesticides were recorded than what was actually given out by the agencies. The agencies have also been claiming harvest shares from these tenant farmers for decades, and recently asked for much larger shares, despite the fact that they are not the legal owners of the land. As a result, farmers are often left empty-handed, while they are originally toiling the land for their subsistence. The farmers submitted to such conditions of living and work welcomed the promise of General Musharraf during his referendum campaigns to allot 70’000 acres of state land in Punjab to landless tenants. However, no concrete measures followed. On the contrary, a cycle of repression and resistance started.
Indeed, the operating agencies tried to forcibly change the tenure arrangement to a contract system, offering contracts of 3 to 5 years to the farmers. When these contracts expire, the tenants can be evicted from the land and lose their livelihood, an eventuality that is prohibited under tenancy acts. This move towards contract arrangements that had started on the military farms in Okara district was strongly resisted by the Anjuman Mazarain Punjab (Tenants Association of Punjab or TAP), an organization of landless tenants in Punjab province working for legal ownership rights that took up its work in 2000, and demanded permanent ownership rights. TAP’s demands were met with violence that progressively intensified with the brutal repression on behalf of government agencies in collaboration with military forces. The movement for ownership rights has intensified in turn over the past few months.
Thus, since January 2002, there have been several shooting incidents in Okara and Khanewal districts, with tenants working on farms operated by the military and by the PSC being subjected to arrests, intimidation, outright physical violence and threatened of land eviction in the course of massive police operations. In January 2002, a tenant was shot and killed in Renala Khurd, Okara by the Director of Renala State military farms. In April, the tenants decided to hold back the traditional wheat harvest share that is surrendered to operating agencies. In the middle of May, two more tenants were shot and killed in the villages of Okara and Khanewal. Recently, massive police shootings also took place in June at Pirowal, Kala Shah Kaku and Multan.
Although the tension seems to have reduced recently, a serious danger exists of further clashes or of a severe crackdown on the tenant farmers. On the one hand, many restrictions on basic needs have been lifted and some organizations are trying to bring tenants and the administration together to negotiate. Moreover, the water channels, which were blocked earlier, have been reinstated. On the other hand, the tube-wells connections necessary for water supply, which had been cut down, are still disconnected and at a meeting organized by different NGOs on June 25 the tenant farmers said that the police still surrounded the villages and restricted their activities. They added that they could not protest against oppression, as they were afraid the police might arrest them. Finally, it was reported that the earlier police action had resulted from some senior officials taking the demands of the tenants as a personal offence. Therefore, negotiations between the government and the tenants on how to grant the ownership rights cannot take place without first easing the tension characterizing the current situation.

Action Requested

Please write to the Pakistani authorities urging them to:

i. stop police harassment in the villages of Khanewal and Okara Districts and urge the administration, particularly the Punjab Seed Corporation, to hold talks with the farmers instead of using threats and coercive power;

ii. guarantee an immediate investigation into the circumstances of these events, identify those responsible, bring them before a competent and impartial civil tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;

iii. ensure the tenant farmers’ right to adequate housing ;

iv. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


Addresses

· General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Prime Minister House, Islamabad, Pakistan, Email: CE@pak.gov.pk, Fax: +92-51-9201893 / +92-51-9201835 / +92-51-9204632 / + 92 51 922 4768

. Lt. Gen. Khalid Maqbool, Governor of Punjab, Governor’s House Labore, Pakistan, Fax: 92-42-9200077

. Punjab Seed Corporation, 4 Lytton Road Lahore, Pakistan, Fax: 92-42-7235796.


Geneva, August 8, 2002


Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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