Shared via the Peoples Resistance Mailing List
As some of you likely know already, today proved a very dramatic day in the case of the farmers from Muhammad Essa Khaskeli, who had been protesting for three long weeks in front of the Karachi Press Club.
Labor Party Pakistan, in conjunction with the villagers, had announced a protest for today at 3pm, the announcement for which had run on this list and others. Many others had helped, politically and otherwise–most notably activists from Shirkat Gah, who had been providing food and water to the villagers for the past several days. In this sense, at least, the struggle seemed to be escalating in a steady, planned manner.
Last evening, however, the protesters received three or four people outside the Press Club, who spoke to them about how unwise their cause was. From what I understand, these men told the villagers that they had deeply offended Varyaam Faqeer, “who is a very big man,”–they added that the writ of feudals ought not to be challenged in Sindh, etc., etc. The protesters, of course, interpreted this as a warning straight from the mouth of Varyaam. Then, last night, one of their elders, Wali Dad, received a phone call that scared him terribly, according to those around him at the time. After the phone call, he was telling others that he feared for all of their lives–that Varyaam Faqeer would “kill them all” in Karachi. As a result of all this, he wasn’t able to sleep, and was reportedly pacing up and down the pavement that surrounds the Press Club, for much of the night. This morning, during Fajr, he had a heart attack while praying. Despite being rushed to the Cardio Center at Jinnah Hospital, he tragically passed away a few hours later.
In spite of this, the farmers remained insistent that the protest would go ahead–that the struggle alone remained the only possible means of fighting back against the cruelties of Mr. Faqeer. They brought the body of Wali Dad to the pavement bordering the Press Club, and swore not to remove him until an FIR had been filed against his murderers. At this stage, gradually, media outlets and a mix of ministers became involved, much of which many likely saw on the TV and radio today. Though, it is important to note, I think, that throughout the media/political circus that ensued, the farmers openly and freely denounced these representatives (among them, Senator Babar Ghauri from MQM, Ms. Sharmila Farooqi (advisor to CM Sindh), Miss Shazia Marri (Sindh Information Minister), a leader from JI, etc.), who had failed to take any action in the previous three weeks that the villagers had spent in front of the KPC (action that might well have saved Wali Dad’s life).
To make a long, turbulent story short, eventually an agreement was reached between the villagers and the Chief Minister of Sindh, the Sindh Law Minister (Mr. Ayaz Soomro), the Sindh Information Minister (Miss Shazia Marri), and the Minister for Katchi Abadi (Mr. Rafique Engineer), in which the protesters were promised the resolution of their five main demands: the removal of the old, false FIRs lodged by Mr. Faqeer; the filing of an FIR in Wali Dad’s case; police protection in Sanghar; the regularization of their village property; and the end of Mr. Faqeer’s occupation of the Sindh Irrigation Dept. lands that surround their village.
In this entire process, public credit must go to Mr. Rashid Risvi, President of Sindh High Court Bar Association, whose role was very significant. Not only did he offer legal advice and spend the majority of the afternoon with the villagers and other protesters, his insistence that the CM of Sindh make his promises in public and in writing was critical. He was there as a witness at the signing of this agreement, ensuring that it will carry due weight in a court of law (I have attached a digital version to this email). To my mind, his is exactly the kind of vigilant and committed role we need our lawyer brothers and sisters to play in the times ahead, if the spirit and ultimate goals of the restoration of the CJ are to be realized.
Currently, the villagers, along with some supporters, are at a Police Station in Saddar, I believe, having been promised transport and an escort home. There had been some confusion over the FIR to be filed in the case of Wali Dad, but the latest I have heard is that this has been resolved–on the conclusion of a post-mortem, a murder case will be filed by the relatives of Wali Dad.
All this, I think it is fair to say, sets a strong precedent against the ceaseless and continuing oppression of farmers by landlords in our country (insofar as institutions have intervened against power). In that sense, this is a moment when public attention has been brought to a individual case of unpardonable cruelty. As we know, however, the plight of these villagers is not unique, but probably closer to the norm in parts of interior Sindh and elsewhere. It is important, then, that we use this opportunity to hold these feudals to account, as best we can–that we build organizations and enact an effective politics for the emancipation of the rural poor.
The Labor Party of Pakistan intends to use our work in this case to build substantive links to these and other haris–Party comrades from Sanghar have already reached their village, in anticipation of the return of the protesters from Karachi. In a few days many of us will be going to visit them in their village. We urge friends and allies to come with us, to help guarantee that this agreement remains intact.
Ultimately, as always, the longer struggle will go on, even if this case has hopefully been resolved in favor of the farmers. And–again–I would argue, the impunity of our feudals and the poverty of our interior are issues that can only be permanently resolved by those parties fighting for systemic change, not the empowered opportunists from our establishment parties. Let us make sure, as best we can, that we use this opportunity (provided to us, of course, by the heroic decision of our comrades from Mohammad Essa Khaskeli to resist Mr. Faqeer’s actions and launch a hunger-strike in front of the Press Club) in order to construct broad-based, substantive resistance to the injustices of our age.
Credit for Pictures – Abira