The Guardian February 27, 2002


Pakistan Police attack peasants to grab land

by Leslie Feinberg

On January 22, some 3500 police and constabulary laid siege to the village 
of Charasada in Hashtnagar, Pakistan, close to the Afghan border. The 
police came loaded with guns, tear-gas shells, armoured vehicles, military 
jeeps and tractors to destroy the peasants' precious crops. The peasants 
were "armed" only with organisation and resolve.

When police tried to raze their crops, the peasants fought back with their 
fists and then burned all three tractors. Police fired on the unarmed field 
workers, reportedly resulting in dozens of injuries. As word of the intense 
conflict spread, students in the region left their classrooms to join the 
fray.

The peasants, with help from workers and students, surrounded the armored 
police vans and smashed windows. The superintendent of police, two deputy 
superintendents and several officers were injured. Eyewitnesses report that 
it was a peasant woman who dealt the superintendent his blows.

The peasant women attacked the convoy of police and fought "like a true 
revolutionary army", writes Sved Azeem, Punjab president of the Communist 
Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP). "They burnt the remaining tractors and again 
the police had to retreat while licking their wounds."

There is a long background to this struggle. Peasants in Pakistan, backed 
by communist leadership, won concrete gains during the 1970s. After 
battling the despotic feudal lords and their armed agents, those who had 
tilled the land for centuries won some of it back from those who claimed 
title to it. In Hashtnagar the landlords have failed to oust them.

"Almost 300 people have lost their lives in 30 years of conflict", explains 
Azeem of the CMKP, "but the peasants are not ready to give up the lands 
that provide food and shelter for their families."

Why have the police attacked now? The CMKP says the landlords have been 
emboldened by the Pentagon's "war against terrorism" to launch a new drive 
to reclaim land from the peasant movement in Hashtnagar and in other areas 
of Pakistan.

"Now the next enemy of US imperialism in the region is the forces that have 
refused to accept the new Afghan setup and also know how to fight US 
imperialism on a scientific footing", Azeem writes.

"After putting up a show of 'cracking down on terrorists' to please his 
masters in the United States, the current President of Pakistan, Pervez 
Musharraf, wants to use the anti-terrorism slogan to clean up all 
opposition against him."

Azeem adds that after September 11, his party "had declared its 
apprehensions that President Musharraf would use the war-on-terrorism 
propaganda, created and supplied by US imperialism all over the world, as a 
weapon against true anti-imperialist and working-class forces in Pakistan.

"Soon enough, a new poison will be injected into Pakistan's economy in the 
form of 'financial assistance' and 'aid', not only to reward the Pakistani 
establishment for assisting the US-led world coalition but primarily to 
preserve the decaying, corrupt, exploitative, yet compliant status quo."

After suffering defeats, police charged seven individuals under the "Anti-
Terrorism Act", including Afzal Khamosh, General Secretary of the CMKP; 
Nisar Khan, provincial President of the CMKP; and other peasant leaders.

In demanding that the charges be withdrawn the CMKP said, "We are not 
terrorists but revolutionaries."

When one peasant leader was arrested, his neighbours attacked a police 
convoy and captured several police officers. Others marched on the police 
station where the peasant leader was imprisoned and threatened to burn it 
to the ground if he was not released.

The strength of the peasants' determination was so great that the police 
exchanged the peasant leader for their captured officers.

Since then, the police have surrounded the entire region and are 
indiscriminately rounding up peasants.

CMKP leaders call on progressive and revolutionary people around the world 
to support the courageous land struggle of the Pakistani peasants.

"A new era of revolutionary change is gradually gaining, in not only 
Pakistan but throughout the world", Azeem said. "Yet imperialism has shown 
a firm grip on our region. The area of Charsada is very close to the border 
with Afghanistan, where US imperialism has vital interests.

To preserve and advance the peasant movement in Hashtnagar is of paramount 
importance for the anti-imperialist forces of Pakistan and the world. The 
peasants of Hashtnagar are facing a do-or-die situation. They have nothing 
to lose, but their chains.

* * *
Abridged. Acknowledgement to Workers World Service
Web: http://www.workers.org

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