LAHORE: Peasants and tenants who faced brutal torture at the hands of police during a long march from Khanewal announced to launch a province-wide resistance and protest campaign against the Punjab chapter of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for reverting from their promises of giving them land ownership rights.
The tenants and human rights activists have also censured the provincial government for using fierce force in the form of baton-charging, tear gassing, torture and arrests of tenants, including women and children, merely for launching a long march on March 28.
Supreme Council of Anjuman Mazareen Chief Executive, Dr Christopher John, told Daily Times that tenants have with them the videos of PML-N leaders where they promised the tenants to give them ownership rights of their lands, when they visited these areas before the 2008 elections. “We were expecting them (PML-N) to give us our promised rights for resisting Musharraf’s dictatorship and supporting them in polls but they proved worse than the military dictator by using fierce force against innocent women and children,” Dr Christopher stated.
He added that the tenants were all set to resist the provincial government. He said, “Tenants are not afraid of the torture, cases and abductions as it was nothing new for them but they have now decided to show the power of people to the rulers.” He also demanded the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of the situation and order a judicial inquiry into the matter to protect the tenants from further prosecution.
Rights activist Napolean Qayoom told Daily Times that the government should register cases against the cops under Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) instead of criticising the unarmed tenants. He said that in ten districts of Punjab, namely Okara, Pakpatan, Sargodha, Sahiwal, Vehari, Jhang, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and Khanewal, more than one million tenants were struggling to get the ownership rights of the lands they are harvesting since 1905 and the government of Punjab should review its promises now.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed concern regarding the registration of cases in the Khanewal district against hundreds of tenants under the ATA. The tenants had participated in a march to Lahore, on Monday, to press for their demands of ownership rights of lands they had been cultivating for decades. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the commission criticised the use of force by police, which included baton charging and tear gas shelling on unarmed tenants for merely pressing for their rights. Separately, it has also been reported that some cops were injured as well during the scuffle.
The statement added that use of such force against innocent protesters, including women and children, was uncalled for when the police had already blocked the road by placing containers on it. HRCP also expressed serious concern over the tenants that remained missing till Wednesday, after the police action in Khanewal on Monday. It also expressed concern over the use of force to prevent the tenants from marching peacefully to press for their legitimate demands and said that registration of cases under the ATA was utterly unwanted.
HRCP demanded that the authorities must immediately acknowledge detention of every tenant in custody, inform their family and the tenants’ organisations about the place of their detention and produce them in the court at the earliest.
The commission also noted that the police had established checkpoints outside villages of tenants and emphasised that the authorities should listen to the tenants’ demands and must desist from harassing them.