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Peasant organisations censure PPP for standing by anti-peasant legislation

HYDERABAD – The representatives of the peasants condemned the Pakistan Peoples Party’s Sindh government for challenging Sindh High Court’s July-2019 judgment, which had struck down the allegedly anti-peasant legislation of the provincial assembly, in the Supreme Court. 

The representatives of Hari Welfare Association (HWA), Sindh Hari Committee, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and others addressed a press conference and also held a token protest on Sunday to express their opposition over the development. 

HWA president Akram Khaskheli said though the provincial government had filed an appeal against the judgment in November 2019, Sindh agriculture minister Ismail Rahu soothed their concerns by denying in January 2020, that the government would pursue the matter.

“The minister had claimed that he and his party believed in the peasants’ rights. He had denied that the Sindh government would file any appeal against the high court’s decision,” he recalled and said the notices from the top court came as a surprise on November 17. 

He contended that all the three important orders of the July 2019, judgment against Sindh Tenancy (Amendment) Act, 2013, which was passed by the PPP dominated Sindh Assembly, had not been implemented so far.

“The SHC had ordered the peasants’ registration, abolished beggar or free labour and struck down exercise of the judicial powers by the executive to settle disputes between the landlords and the peasants,” he maintained.

According to him, as a consequence there existed an undeclared stay against the judgment as the bureaucracy was reluctant to implement the same. “The pending matters stand unresolved and the new disputes are not being taken up,” he claimed.

The July, 2019, judgment of the SHC’s Hyderabad Circuit Bench of justice Salahuddin Panhwar and justice Adnan Iqbal Chaudhry had barred the executive from exercising the powers of the judiciary.

“After the separation of the judiciary from the executive, assistant commissioner, additional commissioner and commissioner do not have jurisdiction to make judicial determination under sections 27, 29 and 30 of the Sindh Tenancy Act, 1950,” the 52-page judgment had read.

The bench also pointed out that such an exercise of the authority was a violation of the Articles 175, 202 and 203 of the Constitution of Pakistan. The court had ordered the provincial government to transfer the cases pending hearing before the executive under the Act’s sections 27, 29 and 30 to the district courts, giving a month to the assembly to amend the section 27. 

Sindh Hari Tehreek’s Samar Haider Jatoi pointed out that neither the pending cases had been transferred to the district courts nor the new disputes were being given an appropriate forum.

According to Jatoi, the 2013 Act had also omitted the prohibition on free labour which, he argued, violated the Articles 11, 15 and 23 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The bench had also ordered all landlords to register their peasants with the Sindh Revenue Department but even that order had not been complied with, Khaskheli and Jatoi claimed. The representatives warned that if the provincial government did not withdraw from its plans of introducing anti-peasant legislation, they would up the ante of their protests.

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