Peasants-management face off: 24 jailed, 11 in police custody following clash

AMP member says arrests made on false charges; accuses MPA and others of obtaining illegal power of general attorney.

Farooq Sindhu June 03, 2011


Twenty four of 35 peasants arrested by Abe Hayat police following a clash with Roberts Farms management a week ago have been sent to district jail. The remaining 11 were remanded in police custody on Wednesday by a local magistrate for further investigation.

The men, who claimed to be members of Anjuman Mazareen Punjab, were arrested under sections 395, 511, 447 and 324 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

MPA Ijaz Shafi, one of four men who have power of a general attorney for Roberts Farm, told The Express Tribune that the men allegedly fired at the farm management and the police after their attempt to illegally occupy the farm was prevented. He denied that the men had been working as peasants at the farms and said that they were belonged to a gang of land grabbers. He said he had already settled the matter with his peasants one and a half months ago. He said they had vacated the farm after he paid them the amounts they demanded.

Dr Christopher John, member of the supreme council of Anjuman Mazareen Punjab, said that the 35 were peasants. He said they belonged to the AMP and had been tilling the Roberts Farms for more than six generations. He said families of some peasants had received a small amount one-and-a-half months ago from Shafi. He, however, said the ‘deal’ was struck under duress.  “The families were made to sign documents at gun point stating that they had no rights to the farm.”

John also rejected the claims that the men were armed and that they shot at the management and the police. He said peasants were poor people who could hardly afford food for their families. He said they did not have enough resources to own guns.

He said the peasants had gone to the farm to work on their cotton fields but were attacked by farm management and told to leave. On resistance, he said, police were called in and why beat up the peasants and arrested 35 of them.

The other three men who hold general attorneys for Roberts Farms are Chaudhry Munir, honourary ambassador of the United Arabs Emirates; and Mian Imtiaz and Mian Ijaz of Haji Ibrahim and sons.

Abe Hayat clerk Yasin said police were interrogating the 11 men remanded back to them. He said the men had attacked a police team at the Roberts Farm. He said they had earlier attempted to illegally occupy the farmland.

Roberts Farm is named after the University of Agriculture Faisalabad’s pre-partition vice chancellor, Sir William Roberts. Roberts was allotted the land by the then provincial government. Under an abadkari scheme, Roberts had granted several peasant families the right to till his land.

AMP’s Christopher John said since Roberts had left Pakistan after Partition the farm was property of the provincial government. He accused Shafi and the other three of illegally taking over the ownership of the farm during Pervaiz Elahi’s government. “They paid only a fraction of the market rate and bought the land from the farm manager,” he said.

Shafi, however, maintained that he had obtained the general attorney in accordance with the law.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2011.


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