Peasants on International Human Rights Day

Hyderabad (December 10, 2018): Hari Welfare Association (HWA) has serious concern on the non-implementation of the Sindh Tenancy Act 1950 especially its provision related to Tenancy Tribunal, which is ineffective. HWA said that these tribunals should be headed by the district and sessions judges rather by revenue officials. The revenue officials are under the control of political and feudal elites. It said that peasants evicted from the land by landlords are neither made accountable under the Sindh Tenancy Act nor tried in the courts for illegally detaining peasants on account of debt. HWA said that every day at every press clubs in small towns of Sindh peasants had been observed protesting against the cruelty of landlords, shortage of water, non-provision of seeds, kidnapping by the landlords, and abuse and exploitation by the landlords and their munshies.

HWA expresses its serious concerns on the aggregating plight of peasants in Sindh and increasing the government and private sector’s tricks to deprive peasants of the right to cultivate land, irrigation water, and quality seeds. HWA is concerned over the World Bank’s agriculture loan project being implemented by the Government of Sindh. A similar type of the project has caused havoc for peasants in many other countries: Ethiopia, the Philippines, Guatemala, Rwanda, Morocco, Spain, Mozambique, Uganda, Nepal, and Ukraine. The projects in these countries opened the agriculture sector to foreign corporations under the concept of ‘ease of doing business’; meaning “cutting administrative procedures, lowering corporate taxes, removing environmental and social regulations or suppressing trade barriers” so that corporations could easily acquire land and control the seed, fertilizer, and pesticide market. In other countries, the bank’s projects have deprived millions of peasants of their lands as a result of large-scale industrial farming by big corporate companies.

The Sindh Agriculture Policy drafted under the World Bank’s project introduced an environment in which the corporations could grab land and hold the right to sell and purchase seeds. The GoS implements the World Bank and IMF policies and approaches in the agriculture, livestock and fishing sectors, peasants, already victims of uncounted systematic and structural problems, will face another potential World Bank python. HWA is deeply concerned that the existing peasants and small-scale landholders were losing lands and rights to cultivate lands through the mutual partnerships of the government of Sindh, feudal lords, and the private corporations in the name of projects like the World Bank and the Government of Sindh’s the Sindh Agriculture Project. Reported in Daily Times at https://dailytimes.com.pk/332088/peasants-on-international-human-rights-day/

HWA also regretted that the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had given the least space to the peasants’ issues and rights in the Concluding Observations and Recommendations on the initial report of Pakistan, which the Committee had adopted in June 2017. If the UN does not take into account the plight of peasants to its relevant forums, it should revisit its policies and approaches that blind to the poor working class of peasants. HWA also lamented that the Committee in the Concluding Observations and Recommendations had unfortunately not recognized Pakistani peasants as peasants instead labeled them as farmers, which is against the UN’s declaration on the rights of peasants and other people in rural areas. They should be known and treated as peasants as defined in the UN declaration. However, the more worrisome news in the Concluding Observations and Recommendations is, the Committee has covered only land rights of peasants in Sindh and Balochistan in just two brief paragraphs (67 and 68). However, the large number of peasants facing hardships in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces, especially peasants in Okara and their struggle are not mentioned in the Concluding Observations and Recommendations. The Committee also did not give specific recommendations that have caused havoc for peasants in Sindh for centuries rather dealt the matter with general recommendations related to land reforms. It urges Pakistan to take measures but lacks to mention any specific measures. HWA claimed that the UN’s Committee system does not provide space and support to small-scale organizations to participate in drafting the final reports by the Committee. The Committee had never widely published or circulated the news of taking part in the Committee’s relevant proceedings. HWA’s regretted that in Pakistan, UN’s system did not exist which could update, encourage and support the local organizations to get engaged in the Committee’s dialogue with the state party (Pakistan).