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Boat capsized in Thatta: 40 pilgrims (from Borhi Community) feared dead!

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MMA

THATTA: At least 17 people drowned to death when two overloaded boats – carrying some 200 pilgrims from Dawoodi Bohra Community – collided and capsized near Bohara coastal town here today.

According to details devotees were fast approaching the Shrine of Saint Meinh Pathahi located in Mirpur Sakro’s Bohara Creek, when the mishap occurred.

While seventeen bodies have been taken out of the water, atleast 23 pilgrims are still missing.  

Emergency has been declared in the Thatta district hospitals.

 

 

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Sindh

Déjà vu! LEAs stop MQM-L activists from observing Youm-e-Shuhada!

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MMA

KARACHI: In order to commemorate Youm-e-Shuhada (death anniversary of MQM activists – particularly brother and nephew of MQM-L’s UK-based Chief -) 50 activists endeavored to visit graveyards today.

But LEA’s thwarted their attempt of going to Azizabad graveyard here (reportedly) arresting a number of activists. Déjà vu? The same occurred last year too!

In Hyderabad also female activists of MQM-L were stopped from going to graveyard in the Pacca Qila area.

While roads were closed by means of barbed wire, the graveyard’s gate itself was padlocked to bar entry.  

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Crime

Centuries later Sindh peasants still suffer from the agony of existence!

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MMA

KARACHI: Civil Rights and Labor Leaders converged here at the Press Club today to launch the annual report on State of Peasants’ Rights in Sindh (2016).

The speakers maintained that Sindh peasants still suffer due to the prevailing system that forces them to live like slaves.

Speakers showed concern that federal government had introduced the anti-peasants’ Seed (Amendment) Act 2016 and also took away the right of provinces to govern and regulate matters related to the agriculture sector.

They said that in Sindh, with the introduction of the Seed (Amendment) Act, the Sindh Seed Corporation (SSC) has lost its importance and powers to process, procure and distribute standard seeds.

The SSC could potentially protect the rights of peasants and small-scale landholders; however, at the same time, it is not known whether or not the SSC has ever played its due role in protecting the rights of peasants because it was also a victim of feudal and landlord mafia.

It was observed that in 2016, the Sindh Tenancy Act (STA) 1950 was not amended to address big lacunas and problems, which were a cause of injustice for peasants in their relationship with landlords.

It was lamented that Sindh’s political, social and administrative structure was controlled by feudal and landlord families; thus, pro-peasant amendments in the laws were not possible.

It was noted that Provincial Assembly of Sindh and also Sindh’s seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan were encroached upon by feudal landlords.

Political projects (for instance, Landless Harees Project) were initiated to increase or retain the vote bank; in which extremely little land was given to peasants.

The Government of Sindh (GoS) did not give more lands to peasants in 2016, not even to their own voters.

The speakers said that although the Sindh Industrial Relations Act (SIRA) – a vague law – strangely recognizes peasants and fishermen as industrial workers, in 2016, peasants and fishermen were not registered or their organizations were not registered under the SIRA.

In April 2015, the PAS passed the Sindh Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Bill; which, in 2016, after the assent of the Governor of Sindh, became the Sindh Bonded Labor System Abolition Act (SBLSAA) 2016.

The new law is an exact copy of the BLSAA 1992. The issue of bonded laborers remained unaddressed because the Act of 1992 was never implemented.

The district vigilance committees were never formed and culprits were never arrested and sentenced under the Act.

It was observed that GoS had merely fulfilled the formality to make the Act of 1992 a provincial subject.

The majority of people living in rural areas depend on agriculture, livestock, and fishing as their prime source of income and livelihoods.

Although there were no estimates for 2016, in 2012, it was estimated that 13.46 million people were employed in Sindh, including 7.74 million in rural areas; the majority of whom were working as sharecroppers (tenants or peasants; however, most of them were landless), and wage workers on agriculture farms.

In 2000, there were an estimated 1.8 million bonded peasants (sharecroppers) in Sindh, and 6.8 million tenants were performing caste based labor without pay.

The leaders of Nationalist political parties who claim to be the champions of peasants’ rights had also given land to peasants but without a formal agreement under the STA.

In 2013, in Sindh, 40 percent or 26,002 out of the total of 53,728 people in inland fishing were doing part time fishing. 

Over the 13 years from 2001 to 2013, the number of full-time fishermen had decreased from 29,732 to 27,726, whereas the number of part-time fishermen had increased from 19,614 to 26,002.

The only statistics available for 2012-2013 by the Sindh Bureau of Statistics show that, in Sindh, in inland fisheries, 74,000 metric tons of fish were produced, which is 28.24 percent of the total (21,4500 metric tons) fish produced in Pakistan.

In 2016, a total of 257 bonded laborers, including children and women, were released from different districts in Sindh. In addition, 94 bonded laborers were released from Baluchistan and Punjab.

The bonded laborers released in Baluchistan were basically peasants from different districts of Sindh belonging to the Hindu community doing agricultural activities in the districts of Kech and Turbat.

The number of bonded peasants released in recent years – 2014 (275 peasants), 2015 (132 peasants) and 2016 (257 peasants) – has decreased significantly compared to 2013 when 1,260 bonded peasants were released on the orders of the courts.

This alarming trend requires the urgent attention of civil society organizations, especially the media, which should investigate and discover the underlying reasons.

The speakers highlighted that by December 2016, approximately 1,580 families and 8,984 individuals were living in eight ex-bonded peasant camps. Of the total individuals, 4,358 were children below 18 years of age.

These camps were without health, education or other basic services and facilities.  

The speakers demanded that peasants and organizations working for the rights of peasants in Sindh should connect with growing rights based movements across the globe and struggle for the recognition of peasants in the international human rights system, such as human rights councils and universal periodic report.

They also urged that the GoS should amend the SBLSAA, the STA and the PPC to increase the punishment to at least five years, and make the offence of keeping people in bondage non-bailable and non-compoundable.

It was noted that the GoS should take measures to implement the SBLSAA and the STA and register peasants or tenants under the STA and ensure that all peasants are provided agreements under the STA.

Participants said that amendments should be in light of the draft UN declaration on the rights of peasants, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), and the Peasants’ Charter (1981). 

Advocating for peasants’ rights speakers said GoS should take measures to rehabilitate released or escaped bonded peasants and should provide all basic human rights services in peasant (Hari) camps until they are rehabilitated. There should also be skills and training programs for residents in peasant camps.​

KARACHI (PRESS CLUB): Those who spoke at the Presser here (included Karamat Ali Executive Director Pakistan Institute of Labor Education & Research (PILER), Habibuddin Junaidi Convener Sindh Labor Solidarity Committee, Akram Khaskheli Hari Welfare Association, Iqbal Detho, Human Rights activist Nazra Jahan Foundation for Research & Human Development and Zulfiqar Shah Executive Director PILER) pose with the copies of State of Peasants’ Rights in Sindh 2016.

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US CG Grace Shelton visits tombs at Makli, preserved via AFCP support!

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M. M. ALAM

THATTA: Consul General Grace Shelton has said that both the US and Pakistan recognized cultural sites as essential reminders of the contributions and historical experiences of humanity.

She was speaking at completion of conservation ceremony of Sultan Ibrahim and Amir Sultan Muhammad’s tombs at Makli Necropolis. (The US has provided over $260,000 to restore these ancient tombs). ssp south 

Since the occasion coincided with Sindhi Ajrak-Taupi-Day, Grace Shelton opted to greet the ladies and gentlemen in the audience in Sindhi!

Commenting on the impact of preservation works, that are carried out with the assistance of *Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), she mused: “Through conservation efforts like this, we preserve these cultural treasures and the stories they tell for future generations!”

Further informing about AFCP, US diplomat stated: “The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation is a centerpiece of America’s partnership with Pakistan in the area of art and culture”.

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PS: UNESCO named Makli Hill a World Heritage site in 1981.  The site includes the tombs of kings, queens, governors, saints, scholars, and philosophers from the 14th to 18th century. 

* AFCP supports preservation of cultural sites, cultural objects, and forms of traditional cultural expression in more than 100 countries around the world.

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