The Fishermen Cooperative Society, the only welfare forum for the fishermen of Sindh and Balochistan, was dissolved on the directives of Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. The fishermen have termed it 'another political interference in the affairs of the FCS'.
The Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government nominated its 'jiyalas' as directors on FCS board, including its chairperson, Dr Nisar Morai, who has been out of the country for the last couple of months for unknown reasons. Interestingly, the provincial government didn't take notice when the three nominated directors were arrested and a few went underground. However, it was quick to dissolve the board when one of its elected members took charge as the convener of the FCS just a few weeks back.
The FCS was formed in 1945 with the objective of taking care of the fishermen's welfare. It has around 13,000 members, who elect its seven directors every three years. The election process is very simple, involving a show of hands or ballot boxes. Six members are elected from Sindh while one is elected from Balochistan. Membership has remained banned for the last 10 years and fishermen believe it is because of the nominated directors. Meanwhile, the election was due for coming November.
Eight other directors are nominated by the provincial government and the board, which includes the seven elected directors as well, has to nominate its chairperson. But, according to FCS sources, Sindh government directly appointed Dr Morai as its chairperson, without the consent of the board members.
According to members of the FCS and senior directors, the government started its direct involvement in the affairs of the society from early 90s when a member of Sindh Assembly, Lal Bhux Bhutto was appointed as chairman.
"There were six nominees but the government increased the number to eight," said Saeed Baloch, the former general secretary of the employees union.
"It's not a provincial or federal body but a society and the provincial government can't dissolve it," said Saleem Deedag, an elected FCS member. "The government should take action against corrupt people, not against fishermen."
Source of income
Sources said that the yearly income of the society could be over Rs700 million per year, but the recent income was not more than Rs300 million due to the direct involvement of the nominated directors.
Every fisherman who goes for fishing is supported with ration, fuel for boat, ice and cash payment (for the family) by a mole-holder. In return, he pays 6.25 per cent of his fishing when he returns. Fifty per cent of this 6.25 per cent goes to the mole-holder and 50 per cent to the FCS.
Lamenting how political involvement has destroyed the society, Deedag said that the FCS played a pivotal role for fishermen's welfare when it had nominees like famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz or former Sindh governor Mehmud Haroon.
The fishermen told The Express Tribune that after dissolving the FCS body, the chief minister has appointed livestock and fisheries department secretary Noor Ahmed Laghari as its administrator for six months. Deedag, who won the case in the Sindh High Court against the appointment of Dr Morai as the director and chairperson of the FCS, believes this is contempt of court on part of the Sindh government.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2015.
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