We were supposed to leave Lahore at 9.30am for
Okara district with a group of journalist from the national media.
The peasants from Okara district had organized a convention today
at a village outside Okara. To make it a failure, the rangers and
police had kidnapped four main peasant leaders on 3rd April from
Lahore. We still do not know the where about of these leaders.
Lahore High Court is hearing a write petition of mine in this
regard. Yesterday, on 6th April, police have raided the offices of
Anjaman Mozareen Punjab (Tenants Association Punjab), the main
organization behind this peasant struggle to own the land. The
police took away the computers and other equipments from the
There were hysteric calls from the intelligence agencies that AMP
must postpone the convention. But, they decided to go ahead as
planned. The AMP had also invited the main leaders of Alliance for
restoration of democracy (ARD).
At the Lahore Press Club this morning, not many journalists had
come to go along with us to Okara. But the main private TV channel
GEO was there. I had spoken to the editor of GEO last night and he
accepted out invitation to send a team.
As, we arrived near Okara, after a two and half hours of drive, we
saw police and rangers moving around on the main roads. We knew
that something is coming up. We were supposed to enter the village
from Tabrok Adda, a small bus stand, there were dozens of them
waiting for us. We were asked to stop our coach. We did that. The
captain in charge informed the press that no one can go to the
village. “Not even the press” he ordered in a polite manner. In
the mean time, some leaders of ARD arrived, they were also
As I came down the coach to greet the leaders of ARD, I saw many
intelligence officers whispering to each other and pointing
fingers towards me. I got alert and told the ARD leaders that I
will be picked up any time. In few minutes, the commander in
charge of this military farms ordered that we be brought to his
office at the ranger’s headquarters in the area.
We did not know that over 10,000 peasants of the district have
already made their way to the convention. They were waiting for us
eagerly. One of the crew member of the GEO TV have already slipped
from here to go the village while we were in negotiating g that we
be given way to the convention.
In the police escort, we were sent to the rangers headquarters. I
was sitting now with the ARD leaders. We decided to try to go back
to Lahore instead of going to this headquarter. All of us were
sure that I will be arrested. As we crossed the front police car
and raced, the police had better vehicles and in minutes they were
able to cross us again and asked us to stop at gun point. We did
As we stopped, few run towards me and asked me to get off and go
along with them. The ARD leaders resisted and in the mean time,
the press and two LPP activists had arrived in their vehicle. I
refused to come out of the car. We were now in the city Okara and
it was difficult for the police to drag me from the car straight
The ARD leaders then demanded to speak to the military officer in
charge. After few minutes they got through and found out that the
military officer in charge is a close friend of one of the ARD
leaders. He would not let them go to the convention but also
wanted that we had a cup of tea with him. This was to mix up his
official duty with private friendship. Many PPP leaders have close
links with many military officers and had very good social
The proposal was made to me and I had no other choice apart to go
along. I knew that I may be arrested over there at a safe and
sound place for the rangers and police.
The major welcomed us in his room and asked us to sit down and
have a cup of tea with him. As the talk started, he pointed out
towards me and said, “they (the peasants) are all his kids”. “They
only listen to him” After his all out attack on peasants struggle,
Qadeer Khamoosh, an ARD leader intervened and told him that it is
not all like that. I told the major that we had negotiations with
your major general and not a single promise has been fulfilled and
that four of the leaders have been kidnapped by your agencies and
that you can not win by these tactics. “There has to be
negotiations but not in this situation where suppressive measures
have been taken by them” I told him.
He said that he was close friends of some of the PPP leaders and
had a lot of respect for Asma Jenagir (the former chair person of
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan), that he also likes to have a
peaceful solution and so on. He also said he would not allow us to
proceed to convention but we can leave to Lahore.
As we got up, he said let Farooq sit here and we have more talk.
That was an indication that I would be arrested. The ARD leaders
told him point blank that we will leave together or we stay. He
then thought about it and changed his mind to tell us that all of
us can leave together.
I told him that I can come another time for negotiation. As I
tried to give my office telephone number for contact, he told me
that they have all my numbers including house and mobile number. I
laughed at and yes you have very modern equipments.
We then proceeded to Okara Press Club for a press conference. We
condemned our stoppage and wowed to continue our struggle.
In the meantime, over 20,000 peasants have got together including
thousands of women to demand the ownership right of the military
owned land that they are cultivating for over 100 years. Two
leaders of AMP were able to speak to us on mobile phone, got our
message and read it to the convention with thundering claps.
All the four disappeared leaders have attended the LPP congress on
22-23rd March. One of them, Sajid Baluch, a leading member of LPP,
was sent to AMP by LPP to help in their organization and to
develop political leadership. A main leader of Young Fighter, a
youth organization in the early nineties, Sajid was elected to the
national committee of LPP by the congress.
How I escaped the arrest, a comment by Nasir Iqbal, a leading LPP
comrades accompanying us toady is worth noting.
“By not arresting you, the military major have made a very right
decision. By that, he escaped an unrest on the spot, the ARD
leaders would have made some fuss about it, But most importantly,
if the thousands of peasants would have decided to come to the
main road after hearing your arrest, who could stop them. Thus by
not arresting you at this moment, the military showed the capacity
to understand the political situation and the nature of the unrest
thus benefiting from it politically. The arrest could have cost
this military major his job if anything could have gone wrong, he
would have been blamed from his high ups to instigate the unrest”
I may have escaped the arrest for the time being. But that is part
of the struggling life we are all leading here. Day by day, it is
getting dangerous. One District police officers told me at our
office while we were to start a demo against the war, “we see this
very often that LPP is behind all the major steruggles going on
here in Lahore. Please take care.” How could I take care when I
see kidnapping, killings and arrests without justifications. We
got to do some thing, and that remains motivational inner gear to
keep the life struggling.
Labour Party Pakistan
40-Abbot Road Lahore, Pakistan
Tel: 92 42 6315162 Fax: 92 42 6301685
Mobile: 92 300 8411945