In an effort to support their peasant brethren, the Anjuman-e-Mazareen Punjab (AMP), a delegation consisting of representatives from different labor organizations in Sind visited several villages in their neighboring province on Wednesday, where agricultural workers (peasants) were on strike.
The delegation, which left Karachi by train on Tuesday, stopped over in three separate villages located in Punjab’s Khanwal district, where members of AMP were observing a hunger strike in protest of the unjust imprisonment of 22 innocent peasants on false terrorism charges.
Sindh’s labor group was put together by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), under the leadership of Secretary General of All Pakistan Trade Union Federation Mr Ghulam Farid Awan. The group included members of various trade unions from major cities like Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur, as well as key office bearers of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF).
During their trip, members of the delegation voiced their condemnation of the brutal use of police force against poor and defenseless peasants and their families, demanding that the Punjab Government immediately release the falsely-accused workers.
Their stance is based on the tragic outcome of a long march that was previously held on March 28, 2011, when a large number of peasants hailing from different districts made their way to Lahore demanding their land rights, only to face the wrath of police, who resorted to baton-charge and tear gas in an attempt to contain the peaceful protest in Khanewal and Okara, which wounded more than 100 people; including women. Police also arrested 35 protesters, including the elderly.
In addition to denouncing the brutal treatment of last month’s protestors, the delegation also re-iterated AMP’s demand that state land be rightfully handed over to the agricultural workers.
They added that the Khanewal incident had exposed the bias policies of the provincial government. The leading delegates also pointed out that the capitalist Punjabi government, led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has historically maintained policies that harm workers, such as the continued ban on labour inspections and the restrictive provisions built into the recently approved Provincial Industrial Relations Act that blatantly violates the rights of workers. They reiterated that peasants from Khanewal and Okara, under the guidance of AMP, are justified in demanding their ownership rights of land that they have been tilling for generations.
Roughly around one million tenants work on farmland owned by the Punjab Government in southern parts of the province. A large proportion of this land, which has been cultivated by poor peasants for decades, in the Okara and Khanewal districts is controlled by the military and other agencies, which have imposed unjust policies.