The Plight of Farmers

Posted by sepoy on April 07, 2009 · 3 mins read

Adaner Usmani sent this to a mutual listserv. I believe it should be noted.

there are anywhere from a dozen to two dozen haris from a village in sanghar on their fifteenth day of a hunger strike outside the karachi press club. they are protesting the violent excesses of a neighboring feudal who has been eyeing their land--his name is varyaam faqeer, an ex-MPA and alleged khaleefa of the infamous pir pagara.

according to the protestors, they have been living on the same 300-acre plot of land for roughly 60 years. though it was the property of the government irrigation department, it had lain unpopulated and unused (i think because it was water-logged). they moved in, occupied it, and made it usable again. they have an NOC (no objection certificate) from the irrigation department, indicating that the department has no objection to their living there. their ID cards give this village as an address. they even have a school, water, electricity, etc. in other words, they argue that their residence has been effectively formalized.

however, from what i understand, for the past two years mr. varyaam faqeer has been challenging their right to live on this land (even though, according to them, he commands thousands of acres of land in other areas). he has ordered them to work for him, free of charge, if they want to continue to inhabit it. they have refused. he has sent his ghundas to deal with them (sending many villagers to the hospital in an incident in 2007), and has lodged false FIRs against a few villagers .

their case is currently in the courts, but they argue that it will be impossible for them to get justice through these institutions (as they have been bought off). additionally they are having trouble affording legal fees. so they have come to KPC to try and publicize their plight, but no journalists have taken up their story, allegedly because of threats and/or bribes. they themselves have been threatened at the press club by people who were presumably paid by mr. faqeer
(someone came up to them and flashed a pistol). on saturday one of them had told me that he was thinking of setting himself on fire on monday (today), but has changed his mind since. the labor party of pakistan has taken up their case, and hopes to hold a press conference on the larger issue of feudalism/landlordism soon.


Qalandar | April 07, 2009

Thanks for posting sepoy. In this context I am reminded of Hoodbhoy raising the Okara issue and bringing it to light a few years ago (certainly I had never heard of it prior to him talking about it). To the extent one speaks of "saving" Pakistan, or any other -stan, it is these sorts of justice movements that hold out any promise, not foreign aid or peace deals with the sorts of thugs that can only shrink the space for such movements (the last one is a particularly intractable problem, as that space is hardly helped by military/police action either. But I am skeptical that an utterly force-free option can work against certain sorts of political actors): Does anyone know of follow-ups from the frontlines in Okara?

Yes man | April 07, 2009

give them guns, and have them kill the feudal lords

omar ali | April 07, 2009

Some people were killed there (Okara Military farms) yesterday by goons of a pro-govt feudal. That news item should be in the papers today. The AMT (the tenants organization) blocked the main GT road after that and the police has promised to "arrest the culprits". Meanwhile, 3 women working for an NGO have been killed in Mansehra. It seems that district is the next target. It was always a major center of jihadi training (several "kashmiri" groups had camps there). I am beginning to think the army will "succumb" to the jihadis sooner than we thought...

Nikolai | April 09, 2009

Thank you for posting this. These movements are great but I wish they could be reinforced by the press. About Okara (this is from six months ago but interesting):