HRCP concern at booking tenants
LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Monday expressed concern over reports of registration of a criminal case against 175 tenants of military farms in Okara, for allegedly resisting a contractor from taking possession of 100 acres of land leased to him.
A statement issued by the commission said: “It is a matter of concern that tensions have once again risen in the villages of military farms in Okara. The tenants’ claim that a number of tough men had accompanied the contractor to take possession of
land that had previously been under the tenants’ cultivation is a matter of concern.
“Media reports suggest that the tenants had overpowered and handed over to the police at least one proclaimed offender. In the circumstances, registration of a case against the tenants necessitates a transparent inquiry.
“HRCP must emphasise that no one must be allowed to take the law into his own hands. The movement of Okara tenants for their rights has been characterised by non-violence. The HRCP hopes that the legal process will not be used to victimise anyone.“The Commission shows apprehensions about the living conditions of tenants in six villages — Chak 11/4L, 15/4L, 16/4L, 24/4L, 25/4L, and 26/4L — in the Okara cantonment limits. Credible reports suggest that no development work had taken place in these villages for a decade. Basic facilities such as roads and sewerage in these six villages have fallen apart due to lack of allocation of funds.“Furthermore, the HRCP receives with alarm reports that though National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) had issued Computerised National Identity Cards (NICs) to residents of the six villages, and that these cards bear the address of these villages, now NADRA authorities say that no such villages exist and that they have no record of the six villages.
“This is despite the fact that in the last general elections voters from the villages had exercised their right to vote on the basis of CNICs issued by NADRA.
The tenants also say that four years ago, the authorities had stopped the construction of a primary school building for boys in Chak 26/4L, and children were facing difficulties as the incomplete building only needed a rooftop. Meanwhile, measures to prevent tenants’ children from attending schools in the cantonment area, if true, can only be strongly denounced.
“To state the obvious, the tenants are as entitled to development in their area as residents of any other part of the country and a systematic denial of development funds gives credence to the apprehension of the tenants that they are being punished for demanding their legitimate rights and that such tactics are a device to force them out of their villages.
“The HRCP demands that the military farm tenants must be allowed to exercise all the rights that the law of the land provides and that they must not be targetted through abuse of the legal process. They must also not be denied their identity documents nor the right to peacefully live, work and prosper on land that they and their forefathers have brought under cultivation through their sweat and toil.”