July 4, 2010
Peasants rally in Okara, Punjab, Pakistan on June 29. Labour Party Pakistan spokesperson Farooq Tariq is front left. Photo: Labour Party Pakistan/Picasa
The Punjab government has been given three months to decide the fate of 68,000 hectares of agricultural land. The land is owned by the government and has been cultivated by tenants for more than 100 years.
The tenants have demanded land ownership rights. Despite government promises, the land has not been allotted to them.
The three months’ notice was given at the end of a huge peasants rally on June 29 at Okara. The rally was organised by the Punjab Tenants Association (AMP) on the eve of the anniversary of 10 years of the tenants’ struggle for land ownership rights.
More than 5000 peasants from different agriculture farms waved red flags and chanted slogans against the regime.
They blamed their poverty on the General Head Quarter of Army looting of resources meant for peasants. The army owns more than 25,000 acres of land in the Okara and Pakpattan districts of Punjab.
Nine peasant leaders have lost their lives during the 10 years of struggle.
The rally paid tribute to the movement’s martyrs and pledged to continue the struggle until victory.
There were hundreds of red flags at the rally and more than 2000 motorcycles. Dozens of tractors and trailers brought the peasants to the rally. Okara residents and traders welcomed the peasant rally and showed victory signs to the protesters. Hundreds of people waved to the protesters on the way to the main venue.
The rally took three hours to pass the main roads of Okara and ended in front of Okara Press Club, where AMP leaders spoke to participants. Labour Party Pakistan spokesperson Farooq Tariq said that the governing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PMLN) are responsible for not implementing promises made while they were in opposition to the military dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf.
Tariq said this was the first mass movement to challenge the military dictatorship when it was at its height of repression. He told the Punjab government to act positively to the demands of the peasants by the three month deadline or be ready for a gherao (picket line) of Lahore.
Tariq said: “We will come in thousands and will not leave Lahore until our demands are met. We have fought the military dictatorships and we will not accept the unconcerned attitude of the present civilian government.”
Mehr Abdul Sattar, general secretary of AMP, told the rally: “We want them to fulfil the promises made to us while they were in exile. We will sit idle to let the time pass. We will act and act decisively.”
He announced plans for a mass rally of 100,000 peasants for October at Okara. “We will take an oath from every one that we are ready to die for land ownership and will march to Lahore”, he said.