Posted via the Peoples Resistance Network
Day and night for the past eighteen days, anywhere from a dozen to two dozen farmers from a village in Sanghar have been gathered outside the Karachi Press Club, protesting the violent excesses of a neighboring feudal who has been eyeing their land–his name is Varyaam Faqeer, an ex-MPA (PML-F) and khaleefa of the infamous Pir Pagara.
According to the protesters, they had been living, without incident, on the same plot of land for the past many decades. Though it was once the property of the Sindh Irrigation Department, it had lain unpopulated and unused. Roughly 60 years ago, these villagers moved in, occupied it, and built on the land (their goth, Mohammad Issa Khaskheli, now stands at about thirty to forty houses). They have a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the irrigation authorities, indicating that the department has no objection to their living there. Their ID cards name this village as their address; moreover, they have a school, electricity, a mosque, a graveyard, etc. (all of this was verified by the local DCO in a report I have seen with my own eyes). In other words, they argue that their residence has been effectively formalized.
However, from what I understand, Mr. Varyaam Faqeer has been steadily encroaching on their land, in a shameless effort to supplement his alleged 28,000 acres of property. Since the early 1990s he has treated himself to the couple hundred of acres that ring their village. For the past five or six years, according to the protesters, Mr. Faqeer has asked them to contribute their labor-power to his enterprise–not so long ago, after never having been compensated for their work on his land, they refused to continue to work for him.
About two years ago, then, the situation escalated. Mr. Faqeer, irritated that his requests that villagers work on his land for no pay were going unheeded, sent scores of armed men to intimidate and attack the villagers. Among other things, women were pulled from their homes and beaten on the street. All in all, in an incident in 2007, fourteen women, two children, and two men required attention at nearby hospitals. And only three weeks ago, the Rangers intervened to prevent a re-run of that same sort of violence (after having been tipped off that Mr. Faqeer was preparing to send his ghundas by a smaller landlord nearby, apparently). It was then that these villagers decided to take their cause to Karachi.
From what I can gather, a few cases relating to these incidents are currently pending in the courts. But, in the words of one of their representatives, “We all know how long it takes to get justice in this country. And how hard it is, for the poor. Besides, we know that if we go back to Mohammad Issa Khaskheli, Mr. Faqeer will kill us, one by one. It’s better that we take our case to the Chief Justice, in Islamabad. And if he doesn’t listen, we will set ourselves on fire outside the Supreme Court.”
I write this because I believe there is an urgent need for us, as citizens, journalists, and activists, to intervene in their case. They have come to the Karachi Press Club in order to publicize their plight, but very few journalists have picked up their story (someone from Dharti TV had run some stories about them, but has allegedly been told to stop). If you have contacts in the media, please get in touch with them and ask them to write about this case. They have already been threatened at gunpoint outside the walls of the Press Club, likely by men in the pay of Mr. Faqeer.
Furthermore, I would argue that their cause has a wider significance, as well. The much-celebrated restoration of the Chief Justice means little until cases like these are heard and resolved. These naked examples of the arrogance of power–of our elites viciously flouting the legal rights of our oppressed classes–are precisely the kinds of instances in which our Chief Justice ought to put his foot down.
Let us hope that word of this case reaches the Supreme Court, before these protesters themselves do.