MPS CRITICISE FEDERAL SHARIAT COURT FOR DERAILING LAND REFORMS

Dawn, June 16th, 2017

Kalbe Ali

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Shariat Court (FSC) was criticised during a meeting of a Senate standing committee on Thursday for derailing land reforms in the country.

The committee urged provinces to support efforts for a new law in this regard.

The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting met for a special hearing by senior lawyer Abid Hassan Manto regarding his case in the Supreme Court for initiating land reforms in the country.

He told the committee that land reforms were derailed after a decision by the Federal Shariat Court in a case popularly known as the Kazalbash Trust Case in 1989, in which it was decided that land reforms were un-Islamic.

PPP Senator Taj Haider said he was in favour of land reforms in the country and said Justice Taqi Usman had even ruled that the breaking up of large land holdings was also un-Islamic.

Mr Manto said he had gone to the apex court against the judgement by the Shariat Court but the SC was not taking up the case.

“Former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry even asked me where my clients who wanted land reforms were, as those opposing the reforms were also there,” he said.

He requested the Senate body to either become party in the SC case or formulate a law to initiate land reforms in the country.

Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali said if the Senate becomes party in the SC case it would mean they are lowering their powers as lawmakers and are asking the same from the court, and suggested a new law for land reforms should be made.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Kamil Ali Agha said the Federal Shariat Court has left nothing to initiate land reforms.

The 1989 Shariat Court judgement says the government cannot take inherited or religious land and has to pay market price to buy land from private individuals. Committee members observed that the government cannot take land given by colonial rulers but can take land from individuals who bought it after independence.

“If the government has to buy land at market rate from landowners who do not even till it, then where will the reforms go,” Senator Agha asked.

Officials of the Federal Land Commission informed the committee that one of the reasons for the delays in land reforms was the continuous shifting of the commission from one ministry to the other and that it was currently part of heritage and therefore under the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage.

The committee was told that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan were opposed to laws regarding land reforms while Senator Haider said Sindh supported laws for land reforms.

Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja said small land holdings will ensure high yield at low cost as families will concentrate on effective farming and stated that feudalism was the opponent of democracy.

The committee was informed that land reforms were initiated in 1959 which limited land holding to 500 acres for irrigated land and 1,000 acres of un-irrigated land and the land reforms of 1972 set these limits to 150 acres and 300 acres respectively.

The committee has asked the provinces to forward their point of view over land reforms under which large land holdings will be distributed among landless farmers and family members to ensure effective and technical farming.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1339857

کیا کسان، مزدور اور عام آدمی کے لیے بجٹ میں کچھ ہے؟

پاکستان کے وزیرِ خزانہ اسحاق ڈار نے اڑتالیس کھرب روپے کا وفاقی بجٹ پیش کر دیا ہے، جس میں انہوں نے دعویٰ کہ لوڈ شیڈنگ کا اگلے سال مکمل خاتمہ کر دیا جائے گا اور عوام کی سہولت کے لیے کئی اقدامات کیے جائیں گے۔


وزیر خزانہ اسحاق ڈار نے کہا کہ مجموعی قومی پیداوار( جی ڈی پی) کی شرح دس سال میں پہلی مرتبہ بلند ترین ہوئی، پاکستان ایشیا کی بہترین کارکرگی دکھانے والی مارکیٹ بنا، معیشت کا حجم تین سو بلین ڈالرز تک پہنچا، جی ڈی پی کی شرحِ نمو پانچ اعشاریہ تین فیصد رہی اور زراعت کے شعبے میں کپاس، مکئی اور گندم کی ریکارڈ پیداوار ہوئی۔ ان کے بقول صنعتی شعبے کی ترقی پانچ اعشاریہ دو فیصد رہی، جب کہ خدمات کے شعبے میں یہ پانچ اعشاریہ آٹھ فیصد رہی۔ ڈار کا مزید کہنا تھا کہ جی ڈی پی کی شرحِ نمو کو اگلے مالی سال میں چھ فیصد تک لے کر جائیں گے۔ اس کے علاوہ وفاقی ترقیاتی بجٹ کی مد میں اکیس کھرب روپے خرچ کیے جائیں گے۔ پچپن لاکھ خاندان حکومت کی سوشل سیکورٹی پالیسی سے فائدہ اٹھائیں گے۔ سرکاری ملازمین کی تنخواہوں اور پینشنوں میں دس فیصد اضافہ کیا جائے گا۔
انہوں نے دعویٰ کیا کہ نواز حکومت نے کسانوں کو چھ سوارب کے قرضے دیئے۔ عالمی مالیاتی ادارے کے نئے پیمانے کے مطابق غربت میں بھی کمی ہوئی ہے، جو دوہزار دو میں 64 فیصد تھی اور دوہزار چودہ میں یہ 29.5 فیصد ہوئی۔ اس سال مارچ تک پانچ ہزار سے زیادہ کمپنیاں رجسٹرڈ ہوئیں اور زرمبادلہ کے ذخائر میں بھی اضافہ ہوا، جو اب سولہ ارب ڈالرز ہے۔

تجزیہ نگاروں کے خیال میں وزیرِ خزانہ کے یہ دعوے حقیقت کی عکاسی نہیں کرتے۔ ذرائع ابلاغ کے مطابق پاکستان کے کئی شہروں میں لوڈشیڈنگ کا جن بے قابو ہے۔ کراچی جیسے شہر میں کئی کئی گھنٹوں تک بجلی کی آنکھ مچولی چلتی رہتی ہے جب کہ دیہی علاقوں کا کوئی پر سانِ حا ل نہیں ہے، جہاں اٹھارہ اٹھارہ گھنٹے کی لوڈ شیڈنگ ہو رہی ہے۔ ملک میں زراعت کے شعبے کو بھی گزشتہ پانچ سالوں میں شدید دھچکا لگا ہے اور صنعتی شعبے کی بھی بری کارکردگی کی وجہ سے ایکسپورٹ کم ہوئی ہیں۔
معروف معیشت دان ڈاکڑ عذرا طلعت سعید نے موجودہ حکومت کی پانچ سالہ معاشی کارکردگی پر تبصرہ کرتے ہوئے ڈوئچے ویلے کو بتایا، ’’پانچ سال میں اس حکومت نے کوئی عوام دوست بجٹ پیش نہیں کیا۔ میں زرعی شعبے سے منسلک ہوں اور کسانوں کے ساتھ کام کرتی ہوں۔ تو اس شعبے کے حوالے سے میں یہ کہہ سکتی ہوں کہ حکومت نے جو سبسڈی دی، اس سے چھوٹے کسانوں کو کوئی فائدہ نہیں ہوا۔ یہ کسان پاکستان کی اکثریت ہیں۔ حکومت کی پرائس پالیسی نے ان غریب کسانوں کا کوئی بھلا نہیں کیا۔ زراعت کے شعبے میں کوئی ریگولیشن نہیں ہے اور نہ وہاں کوئی کم سے کم اجرت کا تصور ہے۔ کیڑے مار دوا، یوریا، فرٹیلایرز اور دوسرے کیمیکلز پر سبسڈی دے کر انہوں نے نہ صرف زراعت اور دیہی مزدوروں کا نقصان کیا ہے بلکہ پورے معاشرے کو بھی ایک تباہی سے دو چار کر دیا ہے۔ ان کیمیکلز کی وجہ سے سرطان سمیت کئی امراض بڑھ رہے ہیں۔ جراثیم کش ادویات کے اسپرے کے بعد جب خواتین کھیتوں میں جا کر کام کرتی ہیں تو ان کے ہاتھوں میں زخم لگتے ہیں جس کی وجہ سے یہ جراثیم کش ادویات کے کیمیکلز براہ راست ان کے خون میں داخل ہوجاتے ہیں، جس سے انہیں کئی طرح کی بیماریاں لاحق ہو رہی ہیں۔ کیمیکلز ذدہ اس خوراک کو جب عام پاکستانی کھاتے ہیں تو وہ کئی طرح کی بیماریوں میں مبتلا ہو جاتے ہیں، جس میں سرطان سرِ فہرست ہے۔ لیکن کسان جو اس ملک کی اکثریت ہیں ان کا کوئی پر سان حال نہیں۔‘‘
ایک سوال کے جواب میں انہوں نے کہا،’’ کسانوں کو نہیں بلکہ ایکسپورٹرز کو سبسڈی دی جاتی ہے یا پھر زرعی اجناس کے تاجروں کو۔ مثال کے طور پر گندم کو پیک کرنے کے لیے ایک مخصوص طریقے کی بوری ہوتی ہے، جسے بار دانہ کہتے ہیں۔ اگر آپ اس بوری میں گندم پیک کریں تو آپ حکومت کو گندم کی ایک من کی بوری تیرہ سو روپے میں فروخت کر سکتے ہیں ورنہ آپ کو اوپن مارکیٹ میں یہ گیارہ سو روپے کی بیچنی پڑے گی۔ یہ بوریاں با اثر تاجروں اور جاگیرداروں کے پاس ہوتی ہیں، کسانوں کے پاس نہیں۔ تو اس کا فائدہ بڑے اور بااثر لوگوں کو ہوتا ہے۔ بالکل اسی طرح ملک میں شوگر ملز کی ملکیت زرداری، نواز اور دوسرے با اثر لوگوں کے ہاتھ میں ہے۔ ان لوگوں نے شوگر کے کاروبار میں اربوں روپیہ کمایا ہے لیکن کسان کی حالت یہ ہے کہ آٹھ دیہی مزدور مل کر ایک گنے کے ٹرک کو بھرتے ہیں اور اس میں انہیں پورے تین دن لگتے ہیں اور اگر آپ ان کی اجرت کا سنے تو آپ کو رونا آئے گا۔‘‘

کراچی یونیورسٹی کے اپلائیڈ اکنامکس ریسرچ انسٹیٹوٹ سے وابستہ سید ضیاء عباس رضوی کا کہنا ہے کہ موجودہ حکومت کے پانچ برسوں کی معاشی پالیسی کا نتیجہ یہ ہے کہ ہماری برآمدات بڑھنے کے بجائے کم ہورہی ہیں،’’اس حکومت کے دور میں یورپی یونین نے ہمیں جی ایس پی پلس کا درجہ دیا جو ہمارے لیے بہترین موقع تھا کہ ہم بیلنس آف ٹریڈ کو بہتر کریں لیکن سیاسی عدم استحکام اور کرپشن کی وجہ سے یہ ممکن نہیں ہوسکا۔ ہمارے صنعت کاروں نے حکومت سے آسان شرائط پر قرضے لیے لیکن ان کو صنعتی شعبے میں لگانے کے بجائے زیادہ منافع کے چکر میں اسے پاکستان اور دبئی کی رئیل اسٹیٹ میں لگایا۔ حکومت کو چاہیے تھا کہ ان قرضوں کے استعمال کو چیک کرنے کا کوئی سسٹم بنائے۔ اس کے علاوہ ایف بی آر کی طرف سے ریبیٹ کی مد میں صنعت کاروں کا جو پیسہ روکا جاتا ہے، اس سے بھی صنعتی پیداوار متاثر ہوتی ہے، جس کا اثر آپ کی بر آمدات پر بھی پڑتا ہے۔‘‘
انسانی ترقی کے شعبے میں بھی حکومت کی کارکردگی بہتر نظر نہیں آئی۔ معروف دانشور ڈاکڑ مہدی حسن نے مطابق پاکستان میں تعلیم کی شرح بڑھنے کے بجائے گھٹ رہی ہے۔ انہیں نے ڈی ڈبلیو کو بتایا، ’’حکومت کے اپنے اعداد و شمار کے مطابق تعلیم کی شرح میں دو فیصد کمی ہوئی ہے۔ اس کی وجہ یہ بھی ہے کہ ہمارے معاشرے میں بلند مقام حاصل کرنے کے لیے تعلیم ضرورری نہیں ہے۔ اس حکومت نے یہ سمجھا ہے کہ صرف سڑکیں بنانے سے قومیں ترقی کرتی ہیں۔ آج تک کسی حکومت نے بھی تعلیم پر جی ڈی پی کا چار فیصد خرچ نہیں کیا، جو یونیسکو کے مطابق کم از کم ہے۔ بے نظیر کے دوسرے دورِ حکومت میں یہ شرح تین اعشاریہ آٹھ فیصد تک گئی تھی، جو ستر برسوں میں بلند ترین ہے۔ تو جب آپ تعلیم پر خرچ ہی نہیں کریں گے تو خواندگی کیسے بڑھے گی۔‘‘

http://www.dw.com/ur/%DA%A9%DB%8C%D8%A7-%DA%A9%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%B2%D8%AF%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A2%D8%AF%D9%85%DB%8C-%DA%A9%DB%92-%D9%84%DB%8C%DB%92-%D8%A8%D8%AC%D9%B9-%D9%85%DB%8C%DA%BA-%DA%A9%DA%86%DA%BE-%DB%81%DB%92/a-39000867

 

CHINESE SEED FIRM, UAF SIGN MOU

Business Recorder, 13 April 2017

FAISALABAD: Wuhan Qingfa-Hesbeng Seed Co Ltd China and University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) on Wednesday inked a memorandum of understanding to work together on seed varieties, breeding, screening and production technology.

The MoU was duly inked by UAF Vice Chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan and the Chinese company General Manager Zhu Xiaobo at New Senate Hall UAF. The MoU was followed by a seminar on Seed certification for crop improvement arranged by UAF Seed Science and Technology.

It was agreed upon that the Chinese seed company will provide hybrids varieties and breeding material for screen test and local seed production. The Chinese company will also award scholarships to outstanding and needy students. It will provide internship opportunity for students to gain practical and infield knowledge.

The UAF will map out projects to introduce the advanced research with seed industry. The UAF will include the course material recommended by Chinese seed company in its curriculum and academic programme on seed science and technology.

Chairing the seminar Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan said that lack of quality and certified seed coupled with inappropriate methods of sowing were a matter of concern for the country.

He also said, “We are unable to get benefit from quality seed because it (quality seed) was being sown with broadcasting method”. He urged the farmers to apply drill showing to enhance per acre production. He said that the University had introduced Seed sciences major in the degree programmes. He said that Seed Centre was established to conduct the research and preserve the germplasm. He said that as you sow, so shall you reap. He said that agriculture sector faces the daunting challenges of climate change. He stressed upon the need to adopt innovative crop varieties complemented with quality seed to the farming community.

Pakistan Seed Promotion Alliance President Dr Shakeel Ahmad Khan called for providing the enabling environment for seed sector.

He said that seed act is the hallmark step to address the issue at the national level. There is a dire need to aware the masses about the act and its implementation. He said professionals trained in seed regulations, and handling issues would help the county overcome the problems in the seed sector. He said that UAF sciences programs must be replicated in the other universities.

Minnesota Crop Improvement Association President Dr Fawad Shah said that there is need to ensure the quality seed for the farming community as it will help in food security. He said that per acre productivity in the country was very low for which modern seeding and quality seed would pave the way for the development.

Zhu Xiaobo said that the collaboration will help address the agricultural issues. She said Wuhan Qingfa-Hesbeng Seed Co Ltd is a leading seed company in China which is integrating with breeding production and domestic and international marketing of field crops and vegetables.seed methods.

http://epaper.brecorder.com/2017/04/13/13-page/866688-news.html

The Day of the Landless March 29,2017

Press Release:

The Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity in collaboration with the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), Pesticide Action Network (PAN AP) and other Asian organizations marked the Day of the Landless under the theme “Fight for Land! Fight for Life! Intensifying the Struggle against the Global Land Grabbing!” The Day of the Landless acknowledges and registers the struggles of farmers across the world that have been forcefully evicted from their land, even though they and their ancestors have lived on these lands for many generations. A number of countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, and Sri Lanka held various events to mark the day.

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek and Roots for Equity lodged their protest on the Day of the Landless by holding a press conference at the Peshawar Press Club, Peshawar, and a protest in front of the Ghotki Press Club, Ghotki, Sindh.

Altaf Hussain, PKMT National Coordinator spoke against pro-investment policies that were being promoted to implement various development projects, and economic zones including the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that were leading to increasing cases of land grab, including those happening in Hattar, Haripur. He pointed out that farmers, who were already facing hardship due to ongoing operations against fundamentalism, were further pushed toward loss of livelihood, hunger and impoverishment due to land grab made for the Northern Bypass, Peshawar and Hattar Economic Zone. PKMT’s Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KPK) Provincial Coordinator, Fayaz Ahmed, rejected the provincial government’s notification for acquiring 1,000 acres agricultural land in Hattar, Haripur. He pointed out that a previous land grab in 2008 by the provincial government of about 3400 canal (435 acres) of land – a highly exploitative measure – had also forced farmers to sell their land for which they received negligible compensation. Once more, in the name of development, farmers are being evicted from their land, which will lead to their deprivation, leading to not only increase in hunger and poverty in the province but also have negative impact on national agriculture economy and food security. Alftaf Hussain pointed out that land is farmers’ right, and now farmers will not allow themselves to be evicted from land – there is no doubt that the farmers from Hattar and surrounding areas totally reject the government’s notification for further land acquisition.

PKMT National Coordinator Altaf Hussain along with Provincial Coordinator Fayaz Ahmed during a Press Conference on Day of the Landless

PKMT also lead a protest in Ghotki, Sindh, against farmers being evicted from land. The PKMT Sindh Provincial Coordinator, Ali Nawaz Jalbani spoke against the eviction of farmers from Ghotki Seed Farm, Omer Dhoko Farm, and Ruk Farm. addition, Jalbani pointed that farmers have also been evicted from 1,872 acres of Cotton Research Farm where farmers had been living for many decades and regularly paid the government the stipulated share of production. He pointed out that instead of using an adjoining vast area of non-agricultural land, farmers are being evicted for developing residential areas on very fertile agricultural land. Ali Gohar, Ghotki Coordinator, PKMT pointed out that 70.8 percent of households in Sindh were already suffering from malnutrition and poverty from the oppressive exploitative feudal land lords in the province, and to push profit-oriented real estate development projects in the province would intensify hunger and poverty in the province.

Neoliberal policies across the country were the reason for evicting small and landless farmers so that grabbed land would be given to investors and foreign corporations. The profit driven agenda to develop free economic zones, highways and various infrastructure projects will intensify hunger and poverty in the country. PKMT demands that all land grab policies must be stopped immediately; instead equitable land distribution must be carried out among women and men farmers that will be the basis for eradicating not only hunger and poverty but also lead to food sovereignty.

Food Sovereignty our Right!

Released by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT)

Urdu Press Release:

The Day of the Landless March 29

Sudan famine, food crises in 3 countries deserve urgent action

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) is united with the United Nations and the farmers and peoples of the world in raising the alarm over the famine in South Sudan and the grave food insecurity in Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria.

These food crises deserve the urgent response of governments and their organizations all over the world. After UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres announced the famine and the grave food insecurity in these countries on February 22, the Somali government has announced that 110 people have died of hunger in just two days. Thousands of Somali are travelling to the country’s capital Mogadishu in search of food and water.

Knowledge of the severity of the food crises needs to be spread all over the world. The drive for humanitarian assistance for the said countries needs to be hastened, as no less than actual lives are at stake.

Even as we contribute to these efforts, the farmers and peoples of the world are called upon to examine and act upon the systemic causes of these food crises.

(1) These food crises further highlight the destruction of food systems because of climate change brought about by global warming. Bold and coordinated efforts by various countries led by the most developed ones is needed, especially towards reducing carbon emissions. US President Donald Trump’s statements denying climate change definitely bodes ill for such efforts.

(2) These food crises further highlight the need for governments to take on a leading role in advancing their countries’ food sovereignty. Big foreign corporations’ plunder of developing countries’ natural resources must stop, and so does national elites’ plunder of their countries’ national coffers. The situation where the latter passes on the task of bringing “development” into their countries into the former is most untenable and must end. Centuries of colonial and neocolonial plunder, the latter pursued through neoliberal economic policies in the past decades, should end.

(3) These food crises further highlight the need to end US militarism in Africa and the Middle East. US militarism has worsened these food crises by undermining countries’ sovereignty and wittingly or unwittingly worsening conflict in the region. It has buttressed colonial, neocolonial and neoliberal plunder and has therefore worsened the material conditions for poverty and conflict in these countries. The election of Trump as US president means worsening US militarism the world over.

Towards attaining these ends, we are calling on the farmers, indigenous peoples, small-scale food producers and peoples of the world, especially of countries facing food crises, as well as their advocates to unite and strengthen their movements for national sovereignty and development, of which food sovereignty is a crucial component.

We have to strengthen the demand for solutions to climate change, for food sovereignty, and against US militarism. We have to force governments to heed our calls and we have to bring about national and international governance that truly serves the interests of the farmers, indigenous peoples, small-scale food producers and all the hungry peoples of the world.###

PKMT’s Struggle Against Patriarchy and Neoliberal Onslaught!

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), International Women’s Alliance (IWA) and Roots for Equity, Pakistan celebrated International Women’s Day in a village named Busti Gharibabad, Lar, Multan. The event was attended by PKMT women members as well others from Tando Mohammad Khan, and Ghotki districts of Sindh and Multan, Punjab.

The event was started with women greeting each other and celebrating their struggle and victories across the many years of struggle. The thrust of the day’s event was to highlight the need for further organizing of agriculture women workers and landless farmers, and working women across all classes in the ongoing struggle against imperialist agriculture policies, as well as the strangle hold of feudal structures, customs that go hand in hand with patriarchy that are devastating women’s lives.

Rural women spoke out against the curtailing of economic rights especially against landlessness of women farmers, forcing them to work at very low wages. An especial focus was on lack of access to education that women, especially young girls had to face due to patriarchal norms. Women also stressed the lack of political rights, especially in decision making in any aspect of their lives. A young woman Nadia from Lar highlighted the constant vigilance that young women faced at the hands of their families and communities, allowing them the ‘freedom’ to go to work but otherwise forcing them to live a ‘prisoner-like’ life where their mobility was severely curtailed. Pathani a young small farmer, spoke on the critical role of access to education for girls and young women, as well as organizing women to resist patriarchy, feudalism and industrial agriculture.

Faiza Shahid, Roots for Equity spoke against neoliberalism – she highlighted “that on one hand modern technology was being used for farming practices but on the other hand women were being forced to carry out back-breaking work on pittance.” Based on Roots for Equity’s ongoing research on agriculture women workers, she elaborated that women have to not only work many extra hours, but were also travelling to far-off sites in search for work. They were exposed to toxic chemicals and pesticides with being provided any occupational health and safety measures. There is no doubt that these pesticides not only impact the health of women and children, including pregnant women but also have extremely adverse environmental impacts.Women farmers stressed their role as seed savers. It was pointed that though women have traditional knowledge of maintaining and preserving nature and the environment but now capitalist science claims their knowledge and technology supersedes centuries old traditional knowledge held by women. It is tragic and extremely hazardous that capitalist science is providing hybrid and genetically-engineered seed that cannot even be used in the next season – and a major cause of not only pauperizing farmers but also environmental pollution.

Azra Talat Sayeed, Chairperson IWA spoke on the rights and responsibilities faced by rural women, especially landless farmers and agricultural women workers to spearhead the struggle against patriarchy, feudalism and neoliberal policies that are encroaching into the political and economic and social domain of women’s lives. The ongoing wars of capitalist aggression have had immense impact on the lives of women, and rural communities. She elaborated the cooperative role of women in Swat, Pakistan and other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KPK) in looking after families who were forced to migrate from the war zones. She highlighted the power of women that can be used to break the chain of patriarchal norms, values and practices that results in acute discrimination faced by girls and young women. Women’s rights include the right to life, the right to healthy nutritional food, the right to education and health, the right to decent livelihood, the right to land, the right to self-determination, the right to organize against oppressive conditions, and of course the right to collective resistance against triple-pronged forces of capitalism, feudalism and patriarchy. She elaborated that it is in women’s hand to challenge these practices at home and in the community – only then a strong chain of resistance against domestic and economic violence faced by women could be pushed back and dismantled.

PKMT Women presented a theater highlighting feudal exploitation and class and caste and religious discrimination faced by women, and the power of organized women groups to resist oppressive forces.A number of women presented cultural folk songs through out the event to celebrate International Women’s Day, and the role of women in their communities as survivors of oppression.After the event, an exposure visit was arranged for the rural women from Sindh to visit the Roots for Equity trial farm in Multan. Many of these women have also been saving seeds and maintaining in-situ seed banks as to rebut imperialist seed laws that have granted seed rights to commercial breeders. During the visit, women farmers provided their feedback in maintaining the vegetable and wheat seeds that were being grown on the trial farm. The provided their input on the traditional farming practices that were being carried out at the trial farm in managing weeds in wheat fields. Women were especially appreciative of vegetable seed bank as there is less and less practice of growing vegetables for household consumption, and there is an acute lack of local vegetable seeds.

Women farmers were explained the experiment being carried out to test the productivity of traditional wheat varieties under agro-chemical methods as well as traditional methods using green and animal manure. Women farmers commented that such experiments were very important to expose the agro-chemical corporate sector propaganda, which lays claims on very high yield per acre. The exposure visit ended with the women’s long journey back to their homes across the villages of Sindh.

Farmers asked to avoid corporate agriculture

M Haleem Asad

Speakers at a national conference named “Sustaining Lives and Livelihood: Fighting for Food Sovereignty and Climate Justice,” held at the Auditorium Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi asked farmers across the country to reject corporate agriculture which promotes intensive use of chemicals and pesticides, hybrid and genetic seeds that would damage the very foundations of the nation. The speakers strongly rejected the Amended Seed Act 2015 passed by the national assembly of Pakistan terming it a conspiracy against farmers. The conference was jointly organized by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehrek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity. The PKMT core group members from the provinces of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab besides journalists, labour union leaders and social activists attended the conference. Farmer Rights activists Dr Azra Talat Sayeed, Dr Nausheen Ali, environmental expert advocate Rafay Alam, PKMT National Coordinator Altaf Hussain, Secretary Wali Haidar, Amjad Nazeer, Raja Mujeeb former National Coordinator, PKMT, Junaid Awan and others spoke on the occasion. A documentary “Vicious Circles” by ITV on malnutrition amongst infants in Pakistan, misuse of medications and bottle feeding by multinational corporations was also presented.

The speakers said that multinational companies had been exploiting small and landless farmers one way or the other, not only in Pakistan in all third world countries. The speakers said they were not against the use of modern technology and advanced science in the sector of agriculture but the monopoly of multinational companies in the seed sector, and commodification of natural resources, and the control over land by the corporate and the feudal landlords. Some of the speakers expressed a fear that land grabbing would increase the chaos in food production, intensifying malnutrition and hunger, leaving farmers destitute, without a livelihood not to mention further intensifying climate crisis and poverty.

They said the corporate agriculture would intensify speculative agricultural commodity resulting in food shortage and price hikes. Paying tributes to peasants, workers and women the experts maintained they were responsible for producing grains but they were paid pittance. They said farmers and peasants worked for 10 to 12 hours daily but they got only on the average Rs 3000 per month. Women agricultural workers earned even less than men. In a panel on people’s resistance, speakers highlighted and condemned the role of NGOs and aid agencies, especially the USAID for depoliticizing communities. The speakers asked peasants, women and minorities to stand united for their rights and raise awareness against the corporate agriculture.

The conference ended in a mela celebrating PKMTs 10 years of struggle for Food Sovereignty. At the inaugural ceremony, PKMT leaders strongly advocated for independent mass-based political platforms for the small and landless farmers. The uniqueness of the mela was the display of indigenous and local seeds produced through sustainable methods by PKMT farmers, as well as nutritious traditional food served by the farmers from all corners of the country. Various district chapters of PKMT also played traditional musical instruments, performed folk dances, songs and theater.

http://epaper.thefrontierpost.com/e-paper/2017-02-22/Business-28934/

            http://epaper.thefrontierpost.com/e-paper/2017-02-22/Business-28934/

Okara farms dispute nearing ‘amicable solution’

Dawn February 14th, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The military and the tenants of the Okara Military Farms have reached an agreement, which could lead to an amicable solution of the long-standing dispute, the Okara district administration has told the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR).

In a report, recently submitted to NCHR, the district administration has claimed that a new agreement has been reached between the two sides, whereby tenant farmers will give the army a share from their crop, rather than making lump sum cash payments.

Under the terms of this new agreement, the mazareen will remain tenants on the land, while a committee would be established to settle any other disputes.

The Okara Military Farms were developed under the British Raj. The land was owned by the British army and after 1947 it automatically stood transferred to the Pakistan Army. For decades, the army used to get share from the produce of the farms, but under the rule of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, a contract system was introduced and farmers were made to pay rent in cash. It was also decided that the military could ask tenants to vacate the land at any time.

Consequently, the farmers established an Anjuman-i-Mazareen to protect their rights, while the military began demanding that the land be vacated. This led to protests against the military, while cases of terrorism, extortion and theft were frequently registered against those who allegedly refused to vacate the land.

In April 2016, the Anjuman-i-Mazareen held a protest in the federal capital, which received extraordinary coverage with prominent politicians visiting the protest. The issue was also taken up in the Senate, while Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also met representatives of the tenants at Zardari House in Islamabad.

Human Rights Commissioner Chaudhry Mohammad Shafique told Dawn that NCHR took suo motu of the issue notice in May 2016.

“Three members, including myself, visited Okara and after getting all the information, we submitted a report to the Senate and shared it with the federal and provincial governments. We also said that the issue could be addressed amicably,” he said.

“A broader agreement has been made, in which it has been decided that the tenants will pay the batai (share) from their crops instead of cash and in return they will not be displaced from the land. Moreover a committee, which will have the representation of the military, the district administration and the tenants, has been established to settle any other disputes,” he said.

When asked when he expected the issue would be resolved, Mr Shafique said he was hopeful that the matter would be settled by March this year.

According to an official statement, a three-member NCHR bench, headed by retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chohan and consisting of Chaudhry Shafique and minorities member Ishaq Masih Naz, held the hearings.

NCHR constituted a fact-finding committee, which visited the Okara farms and submitted a detailed report.

“In the hearing, the Okara deputy commissioner presented a written report that a peace agreement between military farms management and representatives of the protesting farmers has been made. The said agreement has been signed by the commandant Military Farms Group Okara and the representatives of the tenants. It was witnessed by the district administration and police,” the statement said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1314706

PUNJAB CLOSE TO STRIKING DEAL WITH MONSANTO DESPITE RESERVATIONS

Dawn, March 5th, 2017

Faisal Ali Ghumman

LAHORE: The Punjab government is finalising deal with Monsanto — a leading producer of genetically modified (GM) seed — to acquire advanced cotton seed technology and technical expertise for five years.

The provincial government is moving ahead with its plans despite reservations by farmers, research institutes and seed companies which say the technology would have negative impacts.

The Punjab Agriculture Department (PAD), which has been consulting stakeholders after the Punjab chief minister approved the acquisition of GM technology from Monsanto in August, decided in Feb 2017 to strike a conditional deal with Monsanto. It would be ensured that R&D institutes and seed companies get a level playing field.

“We are negotiating with Monsanto to bring down the cost from $70 million to $50m,” Dr Ghazanfar Ali, additional secretary agriculture department, told Dawn on Saturday.

He said that comparison between the use of technology between the Centre for Excellence and Molecular Biology (CEMB), a local seed provider, and Monsanto suggested to go for the latter.

According to a report of the Ministry of Textile Industry published in the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) of the United States, Pakistan had adopted transgenic cotton (Bollgard II, or BG-II) over the area of about 86 per cent.

In a 2012 report, the Agriculture Biotechnology Research Institute (ABRI) confirmed that both the genes — BG-II and RoundUp Ready Flex (RRF) — were already present in GM cotton crops in Punjab and Sindh.

Documents of Monsanto and US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) available with Dawn show that the patents for both GM cotton genes will expire in 2021.

“Even if Pakistan makes a deal with Monsanto to introgress BG-II and RRF genes, it will be available for commercialisation after 2021,” said an informed source in the PAD.

He said Monsanto would provide access to its pipeline cotton technologies like BG-III and others in separate model and financial terms, subject to successful roll-out and satisfactory execution of BG-II and RRF technologies.

Punjab Agriculture Secretary Muhammad Mahmood said that a local research institute claimed that they have doubled Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and the glyphosate-resistance genes ready for commercialisation, whereas double Bt–vegetative insecticidal protein-3 (vip3)–glyphosate-resistance genes were in the pipeline and would be available in 2019.

A visit to research institutes revealed that the NIBGE had nothing to offer immediately whereas the technology available with the CEMB still needed to be improved and was far behind in commercialisation.

“Therefore, Punjab has only one window available, ie Monsanto, to get latest proven seed technology,” he said.

To safeguard interest of the industry, R&D institutes and farmers he floated a 6+1 formula (seed companies plus the Punjab Seed Corporation) to work with Monsanto to get better results.

Mr Mahmood added that the provincial government would provide all kind of resources to help research institutes and invited proposals for their capacity-building.

The additional secretary (planning) informed that a workshop titled “Prospects of GM Cotton in Punjab: Opportunities and Challenges’ was held on Aug 31, 2016, in which three working groups were constituted. The first recommendation of a working group, duly approved by the Punjab chief minister, was introduction of GM cotton technology at the earliest.

Former director of the Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI), Multan, Dr Zahoor Ahmad was of the view that BG-II technology has failed in Australia and India, so Pakistan should go for triple genes.

“We need to be cautious as the US government has a law under which Monsanto may be stopped to implement the agreement,” he added.

Dr Kausar Abdullah Malik said Monsanto’s first entry into the market would be in 2021, but Pakistan’s institutes can introduce triple genes cotton much earlier.

He advised to keeping all options open and developing a mechanism for public private partnership in the field.

He said that in the past new varieties could not be approved due to non-functioning of National Bio-safety Committee. “Now we should develop heat-tolerant and weather-resistant varieties with the local germ plasm and should provide $10m to the local research institutes besides $50-70m dollars to Monsanto for the purpose.”

Seed Association of Pakistan’s Moshin Raza said the provincial government should not spend a large amount of $70m for acquiring this technology and instead support local institutes who could provide three-gene cotton in 2019 free of cost.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318464/punjab-close-to-striking-deal-with-monsanto-despite-reservations

Human rights defender Tep Vanny was convicted

Phnom Penh,Cambodia:

On 23 February 2017, human rights defender Tep Vanny was convicted and sentenced to two and a half years in prison by Phnom Penh Municipal Court for ‘intentional violence with aggravating circumstances’.

Tep Vanny is a land rights activist and human rights defender who works to combat corruption in Cambodia. She played a prominent role in mobilising communities in Boeung Kak Lake to fight against an eviction order agreed between the Government and a private corporation to carry out development plans which would include filling 90% of the lake for domestic and foreign tourists. Tep Vanny is one of the 13 women human rights defenders (the Boeng Kak 13) who were charged and sentenced to 2.5 years imprisonment on 24 May 2012 as a result of their work resisting these development plans.

On 23 February 2017, Tep Vanny was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for ‘intentional violence with aggravating circumstances’  under Article 218 of the Cambodian Criminal Code and sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment. She was found guilty of assaulting security guards during a protest outside the house of Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2013. Her sentence also includes a fine of five million riels (approximately €1,178), and compensation payments to two members of the Daun Penh para-police; four million riels (approximately €942) to the first plaintiff and five million riels (approximately €1,178) to the second plaintiff. During the trial, no credible evidence was presented to justify the charges brought against Tep Vanny. At 8:30 a.m., around sixty supporters of Tep Vanny gathered outside the court. At 9:30 a.m., seven Makara district para-police violently dispersed about thirty-five women and children who were sitting peacefully outside the court. The women and children were forcibly dragged from the area, resulting in three of the women sustaining injuries, two of whom are from the Boeung Kak Lake community.

Tep Vanny had been in pre-trial detention in Prey Sar prison, Phnom Penh since August 2016. On 22 August 2016, she was charged with ‘intentional violence with aggravating circumstances”, regarding her role in a protest outside the house of Prime Minister Hun Sen where she demanded the release of human rights defender Yorm Bopha in 2013.

Front Line Defenders condemns the conviction of Tep Vanny, and the violent dispersal of the peaceful protestors. Front Line Defenders urges the Cambodian authorities to drop all charges against her as it is believed they are solely motivated by her peaceful and legitimate work in defense of human rights in Cambodia, in particular her struggle against forced eviction in Boeng Kak Lake.