HRCP NATIONAL PEASANT CONVENTION MULTAN September 5-6, 2012. Convention Statement

The two-day (September 5 ,6) Peasant Convention organized in Multan by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has made a strong plea for land reforms , development of equitable land  utilization policies, mitigation of the hardships of landless tillers of the soil, acceptance of the tenants‘ rights that have been settled for long on lands leased to the military, fixation of a fair return to farm labor, effective action to eradicate bonded labor, protection of rights of women working in agriculture sector ,a peasant-friendly policy for distribution of inputs and for marketing of the farm produce.

The convention was attended by representatives of Kisan/Hari committees from the different parts of the country, peasant activist representatives of bonded /liberated workers, and human right activists.

The convention declared that the demand for land reform was justified in the country’s economic interest, the right of the vast rural population to social justice and the basic requirements of a democratic dispensation. Studies by economists had established that the skewed land ownership pattern in the country was hampering economic growth and spread of education, besides increasing the areas of mass poverty. An economically and socially disadvantaged peasantry was also unable to support a democratic order.

It was necessary to ensure, the convention declared, that the proposed land reform is the sincerely and efficiently implemented, small owners and landless cultivators are enabled to acquire at least subsistence holdings, and women cultivators, especially in case of women-headed families, are duly accommodated.

The convention called upon all the provincial governments to evolve both short and long term agricultural policies, including land utilization policies. The practice of giving away land as a reward for dubious and controversial services to the establishment should be discontinued.  No allocation of land for commercial exploitation should be allowed. Land must be given only to cultivators and the system of absentee landlords completely eliminated. The practice of allowing urban/industrial projects on fertile lands also needed to be reviewed and unnecessary and haphazard contraction of farm area stopped. Whenever land is acquired for non-agricultural purposes the tenants that are displaced should get a part, may be 25%, of the compensation allowed to the land owner.

The land utilization policy should also address the ecological disasters being caused by wanton destruction of forests.

The convention was of the view that all the provincial tenancy laws needed to be revised with a view to providing firm and clear guarantees for tenants’ rights, closing all gaps that permit exploitation of tenants, and adjudication of landlord –tenant issues by special Hari courts.

As regards landless tenants, the convention demanded allotment of land to the largest number possible, and effective safeguards against ejectment of tenants. The tenants should be helped with credit under new and liberal lending policies. Those who cannot be kept on farms ought to be enabled to develop alternative skills in towns near their homes, and provided with meaningful employment.

The participants of the convention strongly deprecated the government’s failure to recognize and protect the rights of cultivators who have been working on military farms for many generations. They hailed the struggle of peasant organizations in resisting attacks on their rights and called for immediate transfer of ownership to cultivators of military farms in Okara, Khanewal, Sargodha or anywhere else.

The convention expressed concern at the absence of any framework for guaranteeing fair wages for farm labor and urged an expeditious solution to the problem. At the same time it was necessary to take effective steps for the elimination of bonded labor and rehabilitation of liberated workers.

The participants were unanimous in demanding steps to ensure easy availability, at affordable cost, of the essential farm inputs, especially water and seeds. The peasantry suffered a great deal due to an unfavorable system of marketing of farm produce. A fair and equitable marketing system needed to be installed in consultation with representatives of the cultivators.

The convention expressed serious concern at the widespread and multi-dimensional exploitation of women associated with and dependent upon agriculture. In several areas of farming and cattle-breeding, women contributed more than men but were denied due recognition of and reward for their work. The convention called for a broad based movement o secure the rights of women engaged in agriculture.

The convention appreciated the work done for the peasantry’s uplift by the various kisan and Hari committees, peasant and tenant associations, human right activists and alliances and called for closer collaboration among them so as to generate a strong movement for justice to the country’s large agricultural community.

The convention also urged upon the state, the political parties, trade unions of industrial labor and all other elements of civil society to facilitate unionization of the agricultural labor in accordance with the ILO conventions and guarantees inscribed in the constitution of Pakistan and international instruments.

The other demands made at the convention included a call for recognition of the right to work, women’s’ right to equal wages, and all citizens’ right to social security as fundamental rights.

The convention called upon all political parties to give the peasantry’s interests and concerns a prominent place in their manifestos and programmes. At the same time it appealed to the entire peasant community to play their due role in the coming elections and seek assurances from all candidates that they would work for the realization of their rights. It was time the peasants served a notice on all concerned that they were determined to have their say in governance and equitable management of their affairs.

 

Issued By

I. A. Rehman, Secretary General HRCP

Rashid Rehman, Convention Co-ordinator.

Karachi: Unholy alliances for mayhem

 یادداشت جو ایچ آر سی پی کی چیرپرسن زہرہ یوسف اور بورڈ کے ممبران نے کراچی کے حالات پر کمیشن کی رپورٹ پیش
کرتے ہوئے میڈیا کے نمائندوں کے سامنے پیش کی

 Karachi: Unholy alliances for mayhem

(Report of an HRCP fact-finding mission)

Findings and conclusions

The fact-finding team believes that all of the main political parties in the city bear responsibility for the people being massacred in Karachi. Even the political parties that have not assigned armed wings to pull the trigger have a lot to answer for. All of the main political parties in Karachi shoulder considerable blame for their consistent and prolonged failure to prevent the loss of human life and of property. There is more than enough blame to go around and little evidence that there is even any realization among the political parties, much less remorse, of how they have failed the people. There are many accessories to these murders. This is one of those instances when no bystander is innocent. Continue reading

Tunisia: Authorities must protect the civilian population and establish the rule of law

The ICJ today called on the Tunisian authorities to take immediate measures, compliant with human rights, to protect the civilian population against ongoing attacks, including extrajudicial killings. Most of the attacks are believed to have been carried out by the Presidential guard, other services of the Tunisian police, and militia loyal to former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

Twenty-three years after the coup that brought former President Ben Ali to power in November 1987, a popular revolt against repression, corruption, and unemployment began in mid-December 2010 after an unemployed university graduate set himself on fire after police seized his vegetable cart. At least 100 people were reportedly killed during these protests in the cities of Tunis, Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, Thala, and Regueb. The former President fled to Saudi Arabia on 15 January.

“Tunisian authorities must ensure that those responsible for firing live rounds into crowds and the continuing attacks against the civilian population are held accountable,” said Saīd Benarbia ICJ Legal Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa programme. “Under international standards, law enforcement officers must use force proportionally and may use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable to protect lives,” Benarbia added.

Under Ben Ali’s regime, dissidents, human rights defenders, independent journalists, lawyers and judges were subject to arbitrary arrests, heavy surveillance, harassment, physical assaults and unfair trials. On 10 January, Ben Ali vowed to crack down on the demonstrators calling them “terrorists”.

“Tunisian authorities must release all persons detained arbitrarily, including for political reasons, and ensure that those who were forced into exile because of their political activities can freely return to Tunisia,” said Benarbia. “Restrictions on the freedom of expression, association and assembly must immediately be repealed,” he added.

During the events, many Tunisians have expressed publicly their grievances and their aspirations for a democratic government that guarantees the rule of law and protect the human rights.

“Tunisian authorities bear responsibility for upholding Tunisia’s international legal obligations and respecting international human rights and rule of law standards,” said Benarbia. “To this end, they should ensure free, transparent and fair elections with the participation of all political actors and parties, in line with the commitment announced to hold elections within six months.  They should also fully investigate all incidences of alleged extrajudicial killings with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international fair trials standards,” Benarbia concluded.

For more information, please contact Saīd Benarbia, Middle East & North Africa Legal Adviser, at + 41229793817

HRCP report demands long-term strategy on IDPs

Lahore, November 5: Pakistan needs to shun the practice of dealing with internal displacement crises in a piecemeal and largely reactive manner and must urgently devise a long-term strategy for protection and assistance of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

Launching a report entitled ‘Internal Displacement in Pakistan: Contemporary Challenges’, HRCP said that all indicators suggested that internal displacement will remain a key issue of concern in Pakistan at least in the medium term, yet a framework for assistance to and protection of the displaced as well as for safeguarding their rights was still not in sight.

The Commission said that Pakistan urgently needed to learn lessons from the recent displacement crises in the country and ensure that they inform responses in similar crises in the future, not only with respect to protection and humanitarian assistance during displacement, but also to advocate a comprehensive approach to preventing and avoiding conditions that might lead to involuntary displacement in the first place.
The report can be accessed at:
 http://www.hrcp-web.org/pdf/Internal%20Displacement%20in%20Pakistan.pdf
 
Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

Extremists out to silence voices of sanity: HRCP

Lahore, October 4: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed deep anguish at the assassination of noted religious scholar Dr Muhammad Farooq in Mardan and called it an escalation of the extremists’ plan to silence the voices that present the people an alternative to retrogressive interpretation of Islam.

In a statement released to the media on Monday, HRCP said, “Dr Farooq had achieved distinction by exposing the militants’ theory of jihad and had espoused the cause of women and minorities who are regularly being targeted by extremists. His assassination raises two questions; firstly, the government should have known that Dr Farooq’s work had made him a target of extremists’ anger and should have made adeqate security arrangments for him. Media reports of the murder suggest that security arrangments were conspiocious by their absence. The government may have to regret this lapse because such actions not only snuff out rare voices of sanity but also embolden the militants to prepetrate their reign of terror. Secondly, the murder points to a further escalation in militants’ activities, who had hitherto been targetting law enforcement personnel and their opponents among politicians whom they considered obstacles to their scheme. Now they have decided to silence the voices that present the Muslims of Pakistan an alternative to the extremists’ retrogressive interpretation of Islam. This amounts to a bid to suppress all attempts aimed at promoting a rational and liberal interpretation of religion. Therefore, what needs to be done includes not only increased protection for scholars who challenge the extremists’ thinking, but also increased and meaningful state initiatives to develop social forces capable of resisting the militants.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

Police violence on lawyers unwarranted: HRCP

Lahore, October 4: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed alarm at the police brutality against lawyers on court premises in Lahore, which resulted in injuries to many lawyers including female lawyers, and called it “manifestly disproportionate” and “entirely uncalled for”.

A press statement issued by the Commission on Monday said: “HRCP regrets the events of the last few days including what happened at the office of the Lahore High Court chief justice and urges that all allegations of violence by lawyers should be independently probed. But it is impossible to condone the indiscriminate use of violence against lawyers by the police, which was manifestly disproportionate to any perceived provocation, entirely uncalled for and indefensible. Even the Chief Justice of Pakistan has noted the ‘use of excessive force and resorting to high handedness and brutality’ by the police. Arrests of lawyers and institution of cases against them under the Anti-Terrorism Act are quite contrary to legal propriety. They set a dangerous precedent and are not at all the appropriate means to deal with lawyers’ unrest. The government must ensure that the independence and dignity of the legal profession is not ignored while upholding the independence and dignity of the judiciary. Negotiations must remain the primary means, and not the last resort, for resolving all matters. Police must not be allowed to exceed its authority and those who authorised the unwarranted use of force must be held to account.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson