From the Peoples Resistance Mailing List
About the peasants from Sanghar outside the Karachi Press Club for whom I had requested food, we have a temporary respite. The politicians and police made their appearance only after the damage was done — when the elder died and the Labour Party came en masse on the peasants behalf and created an uproar. But it was thanks to Karamat Ali of PILER and Justice (retd) Rasheed Rizvi who took up their case and stayed their for hours and advised them, that they refused to allow the dead body to be lifted until the case was registered to their satisfaction and the government conceded to some clearcut demands in writing.
It took 5 hours of negotiations — including the politicians and government making wild, verbal promises, and trying to convince the peasants to leave quietly without any written assurance (Shazia Marri’s lackey was actually captured on Dunya Channel saying that since the government had made a promise, there was no necessity of putting anything in writing. Since when have government promises meant much?) But one of the peasant reps stood his ground (also on camera) and said although they appreciated the government’s good intentions, they would not budge until they got everything in writing. You should have seen the expression on Shazia Marri’s face. It’s a rare occasion when a peasant can answer back without backing down. They then took two of the reps to the Chief Minister’s house to get this done with their new-found adviser in tow.
Finally, at 7 p.m. (the demonstration started at 2 p.m.) it was agreed that the peasants would have police protection, would be escorted back to the village with their elder’s dead body under heavy police escort (a coach was hired for them). They have been guaranteed protection in their village and immediate looking-into about their collective lands being grabbed (less than 16 acres). But during the melee, the wadera’s henchmen who had been sent to KPC, must have informed him of what was happening, because a dozen people in their Sanghar village were immediately arrested on trumped-up charges.
Because most of the media had made their only appearance yesterday (the 20th day of the hunger strike), and found mostly confusion in the pressing crowd, most were not able to get a complete or correct story. The group consisted of women, men and children, including some very old men and a very old woman. The elders and the children were not expected to fast — only the younger people, ranging from the 20s to 40s did. But they had to eat sometimes to stay alive. But they all ended hungry when they ran out of money.
The gentleman who died was not fasting. The wadera is a lackey of Pir Pagara under whom he was able to use high-handed methods to accumulate tens of thousands of acres. The villagers have throughout been forced to vote for Pagara. In the last election, inspired and hopeful by BB’s return, they voted for PPP instead. Although the PPP candidate lost, this was punishment for defying the wadera’s wishes.
The wadera had found out where they were (probably by beating up relatives left behind in the village) and sent his henchmen to Karachi, where they came to the press club and openly threatened the group of dire consequences including for the villagers back home. This was to include a third attack on their village and false cases against each adult so that the children would die destitute. This terrified them so much and upset the elder, that he suffered a massive heart attack and died after being rushed to the hospital.
The matter is not over yet. This case is going to be a test case and help to highlight the fact that for all the government’s promises, nothing is being done on land reform, real social development and justice, and their Hari Land Redistribution Scheme is an eyewash. In the meantime, we with the help of those with in-depth knowledge of the area as well as of similar cases, are compiling their story and case in anticipation of the government backing out or dilly-dallying.
We are grateful to the members of some women’s organisations who came forward with food and monetary help.