KARACHI: Human rights activists, trade unionists and advocacy groups have pledged their support for the fishing community in the city and their fight to save their graveyard.
Activists called upon the president, prime minister, army chief, chief justice and the Sindh chief minister to investigate the action taken by the police on army orders against the people of the coastal community.
Members of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research (Piler), Pakistan Trade Union Federation, Labour Party Pakistan, People’s Labour Bureau and Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) organised a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.
They alleged condemned the encroachment on the old community graveyard, located near Chashma Goth, Bin Qasim Town, by the army men from Malir Cantonment.
Members of the HRCP and trade unions called it a violation of human rights and urged the government to intervene and save the graveyard. PFF’s Muhammad Ali Shah added that the people of the community were living under pressure following the clashes on May 20 when the police resorted to aerial firing and baton charge on the protesting women and children.
The community never imagined that one day they will face such a horrible fate, when their graveyard would be encroachment on and the army and police would beat their sons and daughters, he said.
Karamat Ali of Piler said that fake cases are registered against the fishermen and their leaders just to pressure them into withdrawing their claim on the graveyard. The encroachment on the graveyard and the 300 acres near the coastal area is illegal, he said.
According to the organisers of the press conference, on October 16, 2009, when the community reached the graveyard for a funeral, military personnel took out their guns and told them to refrain from bringing their dead ones in the future. The army stopped them again from entering the graveyard on February 5 and when they repeated this on March 18, the community took the body outside the press club to protest.
Residents tried to seek the help of Pakistan People’s Party legislators, who were elected from their area, namely Sindh Minister for Jails Haji Muzaffar Shujra and MNA Sher Muhammad Baloch but they were of no help.
There are 2,300 graves in the cemetery and many have been damaged. This graveyard was used by almost 100,000 people of eight villages, including Chashma Goth, Ali Akbar Goth, Ali Brohi Goth, Ali Mohammed Khaskheli Goth, Ilyas Jat Goth, Syed Para and Baloch Para.
The PFF chairperson Muhammad Ali Shah, Qasim Khaskheli, Abubakr and other social activists held meetings with army officials to settle the dispute. The army officials claimed that they have lease documents of the 300 acres for an army training centre in the coastal areas.
The village representatives asked the army officials to show those documents so they can see how the revenue department leased out the graveyard land to the army. The army officials have yet to justify their claims.
Last week, on May 20, the army decided to build a boundary wall around this land. Their plan was, however, spoiled when the residents came to protest. The protest later turned violent as the police mistreated them.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 28th, 2010.