cribbing please, it's Lahore
registered or not.
Farmers of the country unite
From Mochi Gate in 1952 to Minar-e-Pakistan today, it took the farmers some fifty four years to get together in Lahore -- to raise a collective voice for their problems and rights
By Aoun Sahi
Pakistan Kisan Rabta Committee, a coalition of 23 organisations of farmers and labourers from all over the country, is meeting today at Minar-e-Pakistan to voice its concerns and demand its rights. The last historic Kisan moot was held in Lahore in 1952 at Mochi Gate.
The agenda of this conference is to eliminate feudalism from the country and voice small farmers' right to own the lands they have been cultivating since centuries. "It will be a good opportunity for small farmers (mazaareen) of the country to raise their voice because no mainstream political party is interested in solving their problems as landlords and feudals hold key positions in all major political parties of the country," says Afzal Saroya, Coordinator Pakistan Kisan Rabta Committee.
According to him more than 55 per cent of Pakistani farmers own less than five acres of land while many of them have none. Most of the farmers do not even know what the government is doing with them by introducing corporate farming and inviting multinational companies in this field. "This will finish off millions of small tillers and reduce national food supply," he says.
"Pakistan is already facing a situation where small farmers, unable to produce enough to support their livelihood, are abandoning farming in search of employment in urban areas. Corporate farming will only aggravate this problem," says Saroya. "Farmers are not being educated on how to survive in WTO regime. We are trying to educate them on these issues through Kisan Conference."
Talk to farmers and most of them do not know about corporate farming or WTO. 60 years old Muhammad Ali who is a farmer of Wasanky, a village in Sialkot district, has heard these words for the first time in his life. "What is this?" He asks, when I questioned him about WTO and corporate farming. His problem is that his children want to sell their agricultural land to some land developer. "They are unable to earn their livelihood from this land," he tells TNS.
Farmers who make almost 60 per cent of the total population of Pakistan are perhaps the most backward and unorganised community in the country. According to Economic Survey of Pakistan 2005-06, 44.8 per cent of total labour force in the country is directly employed in agriculture while 66 per cent of the country's total population living in rural areas is directly or indirectly linked with agriculture for their livelihood and its contribution to total output (GDP) is just around 22 per cent. The figures depict a very obvious picture of the state of agriculture as well as that of the farmers of Pakistan.
The history of Kisan Conferences in Pakistan is very old but the most successful conference in the history of Pakistan was held in Toba Tek Singh back in March 1970. It was arranged by Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad, the then president of Kisan Committee, West Pakistan. "Around 0.5 million peasants from all over the country participated in that conference," says Fateh Muhammad who is president of Pakistan Kisan Committee, while talking to TNS on telephone from Toba Tek Singh. The most prominent people who spoke on that conference, according to him, were Maulana Abdul Hameed Bhashani, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ahmad Rahi, Mairaj Muhammad Khan and Abid Manto. "Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's land reforms of 1973 were an outcome of that Kisan Conference," he says.
Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad says after that successful show Pakistan People's Party hijacked the farmers' agenda. "Most of the people from our party also joined Bhutto when he raised slogans of 'Roti, Kapra aur Makan'. Bhutto wanted to do a lot for small farmers and he actually took initiative in the form of land reforms but that was subverted when most of the landlords and feudals joined PPP. These feudals exerted so much pressure upon Bhutto that he changed his mind," he tells TNS.
At present farmers are facing a lot of problems because of their sheer backwardness. "Farming is a tough job that does not earn much at the end of the day. This is why farmers, especially smaller ones, have found it so hard to educate themselves or their children." According to him this is also the reason why farmers have been unable to raise their voice even for their very basic rights.
Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad thinks that farmers need to have their own political party to solve their problems. "Kisan Conferences can prove a very good opportunity to launch a purely political party of farmers," he thinks.
Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, does not agree with the view of Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad. He thinks in fact it was PPP that provided opportunity to farmers to join mainstream politics. "The 1973 Federal Land Reforms Commission was headed by veteran peasant leader Sheikh Muhammad Rasheed and Bhutto respected all the recommendations of that commission," he tells TNS. "PPP is not a party of peasants only; it is a coalition of all classes of society, so nobody should blame PPP alone for not working for it."
This is the fourth Kisan Conference being held by Pakistan Kisan Rabta Committee; the first one was held in Chishtian in 2003, second in Mirpur Khas in 2004, third was held in Toba Tek Singh in 2005. Organisers think that Kisan Conferences have been helping a lot in organising farmers' community.
According to Farooq Tariq, general secretary Labour Party Pakistan, ten thousand farmers and labourers from all over the country are expected to attend the conference to discuss the issues of peasants and labourers. "Kisan culture is on the verge of extinction. Farmers are facing high costs of production due to excessive use of fertilisers, pesticides, commercial seeds and high cost of irrigation water," Tariq tells TNS. In this scenario farmers are tempted to sell off their land at the first opportunity they get. Farooq Tariq is of the view that government should ban construction in the name of industrial development on prime agricultural lands.
Farmers from different areas of Pakistan are facing similar problems. Gul Hassan of Sindhi Haari Tehreek (member of Pakistan Kisan Rabta Committee) thinks that feudalism is the biggest problem small farmers and haaries of Sindh are facing these days. He says that Sindh played a vital role in the development of agriculture in the country as it remained the native place of many crops. Unfortunately, the farming community of this region is beset with multiple problems like economic traps by multinational companies in the shape of high yielding varieties and pesticides, inappropriate policies of governments and existing social conditions.
"The whole scenario is creating an unsuitable environment for the farming community of Sindh. This has resulted in destruction of agriculture and has damaged socio-economic conditions in Sindh," Hassan tells TNS. "Platforms like Kisan conference can prove a very good opportunity to act as a pool of problems of farmers of different areas of the country and to raise a collective voice against all these issues."
Organisations including Pakistan Kisan Committee, Anjuman Mazaraeen Punjab, Sindh Haari Tehreek, Sarhad Agriculture Development Board, Anjuman Zameendaran Chaghi and Labour Party Pakistan are in the coalition arranging this conference.
By Farah Zia
The mood street, like the streets of the city, must buzz with activity. In this case it must buzz with words. If you are in a mood to crib, which most people often are, chances are the street won't be vacant, ever. You begin to crib and people just gather around, with their own unending crib tales. You'll have company, no doubt, but who wants a cribbing company, for God's sake.
There's traffic jams, manholes, broken roads, VIP movement causing more traffic jams, loadshedding, moody maids, uncouth drivers, katchi abadis being bulldozed or not being bulldozed -- depending on which side of fence you sit, the Lahori workethics, the list just does not end.
The trouble begins when it even extends beyond the city limits. For instance, you want to make a day trip to Karachi and have a few important meetings planned but suddenly find the flight you were about to board cancelled. The 'fun'ny kharabi', not funny anymore, turns out to be a premeditated plan on the part of the airline -- to merge two flights because there weren't many passengers in the first one. Passengers would have to sit in the lounge for another hour and a half. Only.
Frequent travellers tell you it's routine. I don't know if the getting together of all passengers behind a lawyer in their midst, who intends to sue the national flagcarrier for each and every second lost, was a routine too? All I know is that in the evening when the same airline cancels another flight which is supposed to bring me back to my city, there's virtually no energy left to crib.
Just enough to buy another ticket of another airline. The wait in the lounge elicits a few thoughts, call them cribbing if you like, about free market and what we've made of it.
See, you can't get away from it, no matter what. Why can't people be just happy about something, anything. There was basant till two years ago but now there's ambivalence in its place. People don't even know if there will be a basant or not. So that leaves some people disoriented while others happy that the bloody game is now over. Any talk of basant is not just one-sided cribbing anymore, it's a real fight between not one or two but many schools of thought.
Valentine's Day is next. "But remember the Valentine's Day in Lahore last year," you are told. Ah, the rioting. Another idea shot down, though the rioting did not have anything to do with the day in particular.
But isn't it spring? The freezing winters have left us, finally. The best time to be in the city. "No it isn't. It's summer already. Lahore now moves straight into summer from winter with no spring breaks. See how hot are the days. It's the pollution, the endless cars in the city. Things can't look better unless there's an efficient public transport system. Nay, a mass transit, like Delhi."
No, we won't learn. Or perhaps we will, in a few days when there will be flowers all around. No chance to crib about flowers, is there?
*Attention Young Artists, LAC is organising an exhibition for young artists in April and is looking for a wide participation, participants not older than 35 should submit their artwork (every medium except calligraphy accepted) until the 20th of February. The application has to include name, age, title of work, medium, date of art work, price, address, contact number and copy of ID card. Submit your artworks to Tanya Suhail (curator). Maximum 2 artworks of a person will be exhibited. Ph Nos: 9200953, 9200918.
*Exhibition of paintings by Iqbal Hussain at Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery at National College of Arts, 4 The Mall. It will continue till 7th February. The gallery remains open from 9 am to 5 pm.
*Exhibition of paintings of Shahid Jalal at Ejaz Art Gallery till Friday, 9th February.
*Telespinning, story telling in art. Group exhibition at Croweaters Gallery, 10 Commercial Building, near Old Anarkali. Exhibition continues till 14th February and includes artists Naiza Khan, Ayaz Jokhio, Alia Hassan Khan, Ayesha Jatoi, Ahsan Jamal and Shajia Azam.
*'Clay Clan 1' Group exhibition of ceramics, opening on 7th February at 5 pm at Alhamra Art Gallery, The Mall. Curated by Kaif Ghaznavi, the exhibition will continue till 16th February.
*Exhibition of Mohammad Eunus's paintings at Hamail Art Galleries, 79C/1, off M.M Alam Road, Gulberg III. Opening on 5th February at 6 pm. The exhibition will continue till 15th February.
*Seminar and exhibition on studying in Australia on 5th and 6th February at Pearl Continental Hotel. The timings are 12:30pm to 6pm on both the days. For further information visit http: www.aeo.com.pk.
Haphazard constructions in the city call for uniform policy and common bylaws
The city is growing at an exponential pace and nobody knows how far its municipal boundaries would go. A person driving along roads leading to Lahore's periphery would come across empty patches amid unfinished building structures at frequent intervals. One wonders what's the need of starting new housing colonies when the existing ones have scores of plots lying vacant.
Another common observation is that most of the new housing societies are hardly being managed by any central body. The promises made by the developers at the time of the sell out are far from being fulfilled. As a result the condition of the newer settlements is much worse than that of the ones that have existed for ages.
City planners, architects and developers are of the opinion that on the whole the city has seen haphazard growth in the absence of properly laid out master plans. One of the major problems faced by residents in most cases is unbridled/unplanned commercialisation of their neighbourhoods. The case of the Walled City is worth quoting as more and more people here are demolishing their houses and constructing multi-storeyed plazas to earn millions overnight.
Muhammad Mujtaba, an ex-councillor in Northern Lahore tells The News on Sunday that it is very difficult to challenge people responsible for unlawful commercialisation of properties inside the Walled City. A major reason for this failure on part of the government is that the city district and town governments are unable to enforce their writ. "Even if they want to act, they are unable to win support of the police as this force is not answerable to them under the new system of local governments. That's why the District Coordination Officer (DCO) of Lahore has asked for separate police force to be made available to the local governments."
A recent show of the local government's failure to act against illegal building structures was seen at Sheranwala Gate where it could not demolish an illegal structure despite getting orders from the Supreme Court. "The reason simply was that the local government failed to gather required police force before dusk," Mujtaba adds.
According to surveys conducted by University of Engineering and Technology (UET) students, haphazard town planning is also causing major diseases in Pakistan. The study holds faulty sewage systems responsible for spread of these diseases and destruction of roads and streets. When sewage system is blocked, overflowing drainage water gathers in the form of small ponds and becomes breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects. Besides, it also damages carpeted roads whose wear and tear begins early, the study adds.
In a recent move, the Punjab Housing and Urban Development directed Punjab Housing and Town Planning Agency (PHATA) to make arrangements to hand over all records and control of residential schemes to the town municipal administration (TMAs) concerned. This step was reportedly taken to remove an anomaly that exists in the current system where there are several parallel bodies assigned with somewhat similar tasks.
This is something that Dr Ihsanullah Bajwa, Professor of UET's department of city and town planning identified to TNS when contacted for comments. He says presently there are different bodies like Cantonment Board, Defence Housing Authority, Lahore Development Authority, Punjab Government, City District Government, Town Municipal Administrations etc -- looking after housing and urbanisation issues. All of them have their own bylaws and enforcement mechanisms. But what's required is that there should be a uniform policy and common bylaws for all the areas falling in Lahore's jurisdiction.
A high official at Lahore Development Authority (LDA) tells TNS, on condition of anonymity, that the growth in the real estate sector is farcical. He says the growth if any has been horizontal and not vertical. Elaborating, he says there are dozens of residential colonies where people have purchased plots and constructed boundary walls against them but very few have constructed houses. "In fact, these people have made long time investments hoping they would get good prices for the lands in their custody, in future."
The worst affected, in the words of an official, are the homeless people for whom the land prices are just out of reach. Many housing societies have bylaws that bind the owners of the plots to build houses within given timeframe but even then there is no improvement in the situation, he adds.
The official suggests that instead of madly increasing the limits of the city, the government must look at the possibility of developing new towns outside Lahore. "This will check the rapid migration from rural areas to Lahore and end the hassle of taking electricity and gas supply to the peripheries from the city centre," he adds.
On enforcement issues, Mian Ijaz, DCO Lahore says the city district government is getting stricter day by day and is in no mood to spare the violators of the municipal law. "I hope the citizens will realise that violation of municipal law is a bigger crime than violating any other law. The reason is that violation of a municipal law affects the rights of citizens on the whole. Once this message gets through, we can see positive changes taking place very fast."
Tell us what's on your mind... what's your top ten list... top 10 places to hang out, best dahi bhallas, best drives in Lahore, top 10 ice-cream places. Join heads with TNS for some light-hearted brainstorming, and let's enlist the joys of Lahore, what all we like best about our city.
Every week we shall ask you -- our readers -- to email in on a different 'top 10' to enlist by popular vote the top 10 of the week. These shall be published weekly.
This week we're starting with --
'Reason I love Lahore'
(one-line answer only).
Please send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
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