HYDERABAD: Despite general elections are coming close, major political parties have not incorporated farmers’ due rights in their fresh manifestos as majority of their leaders are landlords and remain in assemblies.
This was informed at a seminar organized by Sindh Agriculture and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organisation SAFWCO in collaboration with Oxfam GB and Grow Campaign at Hyderabad Press Club here on Wednesday to mark the International Day for Peasants Struggle being observed in Pakistan like other parts of the world Wednesday.
Speaking at the seminar, Suleman G Abro, SAFWCO President said that it was British government which sold lands to feudal lords in region so as to strengthen its power. He said that farmers’ movement should join world struggles to get their due rights, otherwise rights could not be achieved.
Abro said that Sufi Shah Inayat fought for farmers’ rights and even sacrificed his life for their cause in Mughal Rule in Sindh. He said that land reforms brought by former Pakistan President Ayub Khan and ex-prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were useless, because former dictator Ziaul Haq get them declared as against Shariat. Hence, there is need to bring new land reforms besides boosting agriculture sector.
He said that in 2001, former president Pervez Musharraf allowed corporate farming in the country which is very harmful for farmers. “Through corporate farming, foreign companies will sell crop productions to other countries at their will and this will cause food insecurity in the country,” he said.
He said that climate change is also badly affecting Sindh, causing floods and water scarcity. Salinity and water logging have also degraded soil of Sindh which needs to be eliminated. He stressed the need to introduce fresh land reforms and effective land use policy to boost agriculture sector. He said that passage of Tenancy Amendment Act Bill is not in favour of farmers because amendment in it would provide benefit to landlords only. We should rewrite draft of this Act again and present it in assembly for legislation.
Waheed Jamali, SAFWCO representative, said that 75 billion tons of fertile lands disappear in world each year, while 70 to 80 percent land is deforested during this time, which is the matter of great concern. He said that farmers are being deprived of their rights in the country. Corporate pressure is harming farmers’ community in Sindh because the governments are bent upon commercializing nature and lands of farmers. He said that sell of Dingi and Bhandar islands in Karachi is the result of corporate pressure which needs to be ended with immediate effect. He paid rich tribute to farmers’ community leaders who rendered sacrifices for rights of farmers. Jamali called for joint efforts to get rights of farmers and bring fresh land reforms in the country.
Punhal Sario, Chairman Sindh Hari Porhiat Council, said that country needs drastic agriculture reforms under which farmers should be given their rights snatched by landlords. He said that Hyder Bux Jatoi who was the chief of Hari Committee in the past strongly fought for the rights of farmers, so we should also continue struggle like him. He said that feudal system is still available in Sindh and nefarious acts are being continued to strengthen it. He said that under Tenancy Act, only Rs500 fine could be imposed against any landlord for beating and committing any other atrocities on him, which is great injustice.
Noted social leader Jam Saki said that there was no feudal system before British Rule. The British rulers distributed land among traitors of this land in a bid to strengthen rule.
He said we should make joint efforts for bringing amendments in Tenancy Act for good of farmers. He stressed the need to create social societies in the country to resolve farmers’ issues amicably.
Nasir Aziz, Action aid leader, said that it is fact that all farmers’ movement took birth from Sindh, which is a great omen. He said that we should struggle for rights of farmers. “Women should also be provided ownership rights on land,” he urged. The government should distribute land among women farmers.
Jami Chandio, Executive Director CPCS, said that political parties have not incorporated farmers’ rights in their manifestos and they were mere eyewash. He lauded the farmers’ struggle for their rights and paid rich tribute to Sufi Shah Inayat for sacrificing his life while struggling for the rights of peasants.
He said that 62 percent farmers in Sindh are landless, while there are few which posses less than five acres of land. The women don’t have right on lands which is matter of great concern. He said that on this day, all farmer movements should make a renewed commitment to activate their struggles for getting their rights snatched by feudal lords. It is pity that farmers’ issues are not raised in parliaments, while media also ignore these issues.
Taj Marri, Coordinator Bhandar Sangat, lashed out at government for passing Sindh Tenancy Act Amendment Bill without incorporating proposals of farmers. He called for again amending the Act for farmers’ welfare. He said that farmers are being deprived of their rights in Sindh but they would continue their struggle till getting rights.
Rafiq Tunio, General Manager, SAFWCO, said that this day is of farmers, fishermen and labourers, who provide food to population of the country. He paid glowing tribute to farmers’ leaders and activists striving for their rights. He thanked Oxfam GB and other notables for participating in the program and vowed that struggle for farmers would be continued.
Nobahar of PILER and Shah Jehan of Action aid also spoke on the occasion. Later, question answer session was also held in which participants from farmer community and civil society raised question about farmers’ issues. They also urged the government to come forward and resolve issues facing peasants, besides bringing drastic agriculture reforms across the country.