Report sought over Okara Farm killings

21-05-2020 by: Umar Cheema




ISLAMABAD – The Foreign Ministry has asked the law-enforcement agencies to provide it with a ‘fact-finding’ report on the uprising of tenants and as to what actually led to their killing in clashes with armed forces at Okara Military Farm, The Nation learnt it reliably.

The Foreign Office was reportedly approached by leading international human rights watchdogs who expressed concern over the killing of peasants agitating against the the “unlawful claim” by the army on the lands.

It has been learnt that the US-based Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International with its head office in the UK have expressed their shock over the blatant violation of tenants rights with the former threatening to raise the issue in the United Nations.

There are reports that the government wants cleansing its human rights record before European Union Chief Election Observer John Cushnahan visits Pakistan next month.

According to the official sources, the EU has linked the ratification of its economic agreements such as the ‘Third Generation Agreement’, with the yet to be submitted report by John Cushnahan about the status of democracy and human rights in Pakistan.

Article 1 of the said agreement binds the signatory countries to demonstrate complete respect for democracy and human rights. Pakistan’s negotiations with the EU on the subject had started several years ago, however formal inking of the agreement was delayed following events leading to extra-constitutional military rule and subsequent alleged electoral rigging in the country.

The government is trying to seek Cushnahan’s goodwill, who is believed to have opposed its approval earlier in his report to the EU Parliament, describing October 2002’s elections as “seriously flawed,” for the ratification of agreement .

As many as 18 peasants have allegedly been killed by the Rangers and armed forces in different parts of the Punjab since the tenants association — Anjuman Mazzareen-e-Punjab— initiated a movement against, what they describe, illegal occupation of their lands by military and others.

However, the government is yet to move to the rescue of helpless tenants cultivating their lands for the last 90 years.

The tenants had been cultivating these lands since 1913 after the Gora soldiers got a land of over 27,000 acres of land from the Punjab government on a Rs 15,000 annual lease to grow fodder for the horses.

The land was returned in 1943 after the lease agreement expired and was lately taken over by the Pakistan Army after independence which has been making its use with tenants as the real crop-grower, officials said.

It has been learnt that the provincial Home Department is hiding facts in its informations being forwarded to the federal government for the preparation of report on the subject. As according to the Home Department, the tenants themselves killed their fellows in order to aggravate the matter.

The report being prepared for the Foreign Office lacks credibility as it does not concede to the demand of peasants being the legitimate occupants of land currently in their possession under the law of the land, according to sources in the Punjab government.

Interestingly, these peasants were forced to concede to official demand to disown property rights of their land when Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi recently announced to distribute one lack acre arable land among the tenants.



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