HRCP demands lawful treatment of tenant marchers

Lahore, March 30: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed concern at registration of cases in the Khanewal district against hundreds of tenants under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The tenants had participated in a march to Lahore on Monday to press for their demand for ownership rights of the land that they had been cultivating for decades.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Commission said that while the administration had largely refrained from using force to prevent the tenants’ march elsewhere in Punjab, tenants in the Khanewal district were baton-charged by the police and faced tear gas shelling and detention during their efforts to march to Lahore and hundreds were booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act. HRCP said that it was not in a position to determine what cause, if any, the tenants had given for the use of force by a police contingent blocking a key highway in Khanewal. However, the commission acknowledged that at least some policemen were also injured in addition to the scores of tenants, including women and children, injured when police beat the marchers with batons and used tear-gas shells to disperse them.
HRCP said that such use of force against unarmed tenants was uncalled for when the police had already blocked the road by placing containers on it. HRCP expressed serious concern that since the police action in Khanewal on Monday scores of marchers remained unaccounted for until Wednesday. These included women and children. Scores of motorbikes and other vehicles used by the marchers travelling to Lahore were also damaged in the police action or were in police custody. HRCP expressed concern at the use of force to prevent the tenants from marching peacefully to press for their legitimate demands and said that registration of cases under the anti-terrorism law was utterly unwarranted. HRCP demanded that the authorities must immediately acknowledge detention of every tenant in custody, inform the family and the tenants’ organisations about the place of their detention and produce them in court at the earliest if there were any charges against them. All other tenants must be released forthwith, HRCP demanded. The commission also noted that the police had established checkpoints outside villages of tenants and emphasised that the authorities should listen to the tenants’ demands and must desist from harassing them.
Dr Mehdi Hasan

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