Thursday, 22 November 2007

Urgent Request

An urgent request to NGOs’, Human Rights Organizations and political leaders:
-to increase pressure on the Govt of Pakistan to lift of the emergency, restrictions on press freedom, restoration of the constitution and reinstatement of judges:
We have had five martial laws and thirty two years under emergency in our sixty years of history. This must be some kind of a world record. The Nov.3, 2007 martial law (emergency) was to demolish a judiciary, which for the first time in the history of the country.
Human rights and civil society activists, lawyers, journalists and members of opposition political parties want an early end to the state of emergency and to get back on the path of democracy. The constitutional experts expressed their views that General Musharraf has imposed martial- law in the name of emergency.
Every Pakistani desires to see restoration of Pakistan’s constitution and independent judiciary and expresses solidarity with media condemning the assault on press freedom and judiciary. We regret, what General Musharaf imposed the emergency, suspended the constitution and enforced the Provisional Constitution Order.
According to BBC, “3,000 lawyers have been arrested. The police barged into courts premises, lobbed teargas shells and beat peacefully protesting lawyers with lathis. Never before in the history of the world have been so many lawyers been arrested. Not in the Hitler’s, Germany, Franco’s Spain, Sadam’s Iraq”.
AMP has been organizing meetings to end emergency and strongly urge to call for the immediate release who are under house arrest or in jails including members of the Bar Association, judges, and Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asma Jahangir who is released after many-days under arrest (HRCP), and an other prominent opposition leaders as, Imran Khan and Ms Benazir Bhutto.
The peasants of Military Farms, Okara, vigorously condemned and exposed General Musharraf’s human rights violations against millions of peasants. They urge that all fake cases must come to end and due to these cases thousands of peasants are underground.
AMP has decided to continue its struggle till the lifting of emergency, restrictions on press freedom, and restoration of the constitution and reinstatement of all judges who have been removed from their positions.

In solidarity,
David Rehmat Secretary General AMP

Background Information on AMP

Background History:
One million peasants including men, women and children have been struggling for land ownership rights in the Province of Punjab. They have been working on the same fields for nearly 100 years. Our ancestors first settled on arid lands in1908. Government documents and Board of Revenue records reveal that the land was given to the British Indian Army under a lease agreement in 1913 for a period of 20 years. It continued to pay the lease rent till 1943.

In 1947, the land was automatically transferred to the Ministry of Defence. The original tenants continued to till the land under the Punjab Tenancy Act 1887, but there is no record of the original lease having been renewed later on. In 1947, after partition, the Military authorities have neither paid the rent to the Punjab government since 1943, nor extended the lease period. Military Management has been receiving 50% crops forcefully but the Military Management itself has illegal possession of the farmland.

Origin of AMP:
Anjuman -e- Muzareen Punjab ( Movement of Landless Peasants of the Punjab) was formally organized in June 2000. AMP was launched when the Military authorities in Okara district took decision to change the “ Battai System” (Crops Sharing System) to a “ Contract System” (Cash Rent System). Army, Police and Rangers used excessive force to crush this movement. This new system was designed to evict these tenants from their land. Such a tenant has been projected under Punjab Tenancy Act,1887. He is mentioned in revenue record as muzare (tenant) and cannot be illegally ejected from the land who is cultivating.

Now, the land is owned by the Provincial government in 10 districts of the Punjab run by various government agencies and often by the army. A series of negotiations took place between the farmers (AMP) and government officials to solve this crisis, but the meetings did not yield any results.

The first clash took place between the tenants and the Farm Management on October 9, 2000, over the removal of pieces of woods lying in a Chak.(village) 10/4-L Okara Distt. Villagers were not allowing to carry farm’s wood under the control of farms management. The local police and Elite Force rushed to the village where woman, children and other villages in large number, resisted.

The main leadership arose from this village. This is called “revolutionary village” and became platform for surrounding areas. Another big clash took place on August 24, 2002 when an activist of AMP Sulman Patras (a young farmer of 22) was shot dead on the spot. This was followed by a number of clashes during more than six years.

In June 2002, the repression reached its culmination. Several villages were besieged by the Army, Police and Rangers for months to break the will of the tenants. All exits and entries were blocked to prevent the relatives of the peasants. Means of communication electricity and the telephone supply were cut off etc. Irrigation canals were stopped. Provisions and public services were prevented by the Rangers and law-enforcening agencies.

Many farmers already have lost their lives. Hundreds of peasants were seriously wounded and many of them have been paralyzed. Thousands of them are involved in fake cases to prevent from their real mission. As, in a war situation, by sealing off the area they prevent outside observers and journalists from interviewing the leaders and activists.

AMP demands land ownership rights and the implementation of government promises. In the past, various governments had been promising during their reign. President Pervaiz Musharraf coming to power has repeatedly promised to grant 70,000 acres of land to the peasants.

Women and children have played an important role in their struggle. They encouraged their husbands/brothers and sons. When the police came to get signature on the new lease deed the women and children stood at the first line of defence. Women formed “ Thapa Force” (Thapa in local language means a thick wooden stick used for washing clothes) One of the women said, “When the ranger and police picked our men and children, how could women remain silent spectators?
Many NGO’s, human rights and civil society organizations, political parties and Ambassadors of various countries visited the disputed area and expressed their solidarity. BBC, National and International media highlighted this issue several times. Human Rights Watch printed 57 pages report on this issue.

Now, in the current context, the peasants need strong international solidarity, in order to make their claims known and recognized. The peasants waving their red flags demonstrated their resolve to fight to the end and justify their revolutionary slogan of “Malki ya Maut” (Ownership or Death)

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