The killing of two fishermen near the Chashma Link Canal in Punjab sparked protests across Sindh on Monday.
In a statement, the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) condemned the murder, demanding of the Punjab government to launch a judicial inquiry into the incident and provide protection to these families.
Hundreds of fishermen families, who migrated from Sindh some 40 years ago, live in vulnerable conditions around the Chashma, Mangla, Taunsa and Shahpur dams, and suffer exploitation at the hands of fishing contractors.
“These fishermen need protection of life and livelihood. The contractors force them to leave the waters,” the statement said.
PFF Chairman Mohammed Ali Shah revealed that the fishermen from Sindh migrated with their families to other provinces when the flow of the River Indus came to a dead low and water bodies in Sanghar, Dadu, Jamshoro and other districts depleted several years back.
“The only other option was to shift with their families to other provinces in search of livelihood sources,” he added.
Shah said that the PFF, with the support of the fishermen community, intended to work with civil society organizations in order to abolish contract system in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“The local administration seems reluctant to take action against the suspects. The partiality is evident from the fact that the local police are harassing the fishermen instead of lodging a case against the suspects,” said Mustafa Meerani, Vice-Chairman PFF.
Fishermen also staged a protest rally in Sanghar and demanded of the Sindh government to use their political influence to ensure security of fishermen in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The fishermen anchored their boats at the jetties in protest. Those killed in Punjab were identified as Imamuddin Mallah and a 13-year-old boy, Hashim Mallah, who hailed from the Sanghar district.
Ashraf Mallah, who lives at Chashma, said armed men of contractors often harassed fishermen on the pretext of poor performance.
Two years ago, some fishermen bought a few acres of land near the lake for shelter and cultivation at the expense of annoying contractors who wanted the land for themselves.
On Sunday morning, the contractor came to the fishermen’s house and opened fire, killing two on the spot and injuring three others.
The remaining families have been threatened to abandon the area at the earliest or face the same fate.
“They live in constant fear for their lives,” said Mallah.