By Farooq Tariq
Yesterday on 21st August, finally, I was able to visit the district
I was banned to enter for three months by Punjab government. At
Okara, I visited the three most combating villages chack 4/4/4l,
10/4/4l and 5/4/4l. the military farm management Okara with the
help of rangers and police used all sort of repressive measures
to force the tenants to pay the Theka the contact
amount. The 19 villages were surrounded for three months from
May to July 2003, by the state forces. No one was allowed to get
in the villages. Relatives of the tenants were picked up from
different areas and the military farms management demanded the
ransom amount in the shape of the Theka. But the leadership of
Anjaman Mozareen Punjab refused to accept the pressure and asked
the tenants not to pay and continue the movement of civil disobedience.
The mood at the villages was of defianice and full of confidence.
They were happy that this time it is the sate forces that have
retreated for the time being. The rangers are no more in the open
as was the case during the last three months. Most of the arrested
leaders have been released on bail. And above all, they have made
no open or secret compromise with the military farms management
and stick to their original demand of the ownership of the land
they are cultivating for over 100 years.
They were happy with the support of Labour Party Pakistan and
the civil rights organization in this struggle. They were pleased
to see the press statements of Asma Jehangir and mine in their
favor. They had a lot of respect for advocates of Lahore who have
given them maximum free legal aid successfully. They were surprise
to see the international support generated for them by different
governments and non government organizations, trade unions and
progressive parties. They told me that we have won a battle but
not the war. We are ready for future battles.
They were happy that now general Musharaf have openly attacked
their right of ownership. It shows the penetration of our
issue to the top ranks of the ruling class. They are worried what
to do about this militant tenant movement unseen in the history
of Pakistan said David zahid, district secretary of amp.
The leadership is taking no chance in defending themselves. There
are round the clock barricades outside the villages entrances
watched by the young generation of the villages. Red flags are
flying high on the roof tops of these revolting villages. There
will more of them on 24th august, when the first death anniversary
of Selman Patras will be observed at chack 10/4/4l. Rasool Buksh
Paleejo, Karamat Ali, Irfan Mufti and Yousaf Baluch will be some
of the guests attending this important protest rally. Thousands
of tenants are expected to attend this rally. 23 years old Selman
was killed on 24th August last year by the rangers during a demonstration.
Labour Party Pakistan will be holding a protest rally at Lahore
on 24th August at Shimla Pehari at 4pm to commemorate the death
of Selman. Another such rally is also planned at Khanewal district
Come and join these rallies if you are around.