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Pakistan: Fishermen’s trade union activists murdered by the land mafia

News report and respones by PFF and human rights organisations

8 May 2011

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( Murder of 2 PFF leaders for defending the Mangrove forest

The land mafia group headed by Haji Younis, his son Zulfiqar Younis along with other accomplices organised a violent attack on 6 May 2011 on Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) office in Kaka Pir Village at night time and murdered two active leaders: Haji Abubakar, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum President of Kaka Village unit and Abdul Ganai Mirbahar, General Secretary of Karachi division PFF. Culprits did all this to intimidate PFF leadership and its workers to give up their persistent campaign for protection and preservation of mangroves forest in Karachi and campaign against land mafia.

Background

PFF had launched a campaign against the land Mafia of kaka Pir Village in particular and on entire coast in general. In this regards PFF has written letters to higher authorities, held rallies, hunger strike and ultimately held a short march which started from Kaka Pir Village Kiamari on 8 February 2011 and culminated outside of press club in Karachi on 9 Februray. In the Midst, the marchers staged Sit In demonstration outside of Sindh Assembly where SSP Kiamari and Ms. Shelha raza deputy Speaker Sindh Assembly ensured that SHO Mari Pur will be suspended within three days; secondly action will be taken against Haji younis and his son Zulifiqar younis Ex Town nazim Kiamari involved in land grabbing and registration of fake FIRs against PFF Chairperson, Mr.Muhammad Ali shah; thirdly firm action will be taken against other land grabbers involved in land filling.

Besides, a meeting with Honorable Zulifiqar Mirza, Home Minister Sindh was held where he formed a committee in supervision of PPP leader Lal Bux Bhutto to inquire about the issue in detail and submit the report.

The campaign was in progress when the culprits broke into the Kaka Pir village at night time and murdered two PFF workers. Posted below are recent news reports, appeals and Urls.)

The News, 9 May 2011

Fishermen refuse to sail to protest killing of two leaders

our correspondent

Monday, May 09, 2011

Karachi

Protesting the recent killing of two leaders of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), Abdul Ghani and Haji Abu Baka, a large number of fishermen in Sindh and Balochistan observed black day on Sunday.

Many protesters refused to sail out to sea and anchoring their boats at their respective village jetties scattered along Karachi’s 129 km coastline, concentrated mostly in areas like Ibrahim Hydri, Rehri, Hawks bay and Karachi Fish Harbour.

According to reports, a large number of people who fish in the water bodies of Thatta, Badin, Hyderabad, Sanghar, Qambar, Sukkur, Kandhkot and other areas were joined by civil society leaders in their denunciation of the incident. They also demanded the protection of natural habitats like mangrove forests.

In Gwadar, a large number of fishermen staged a protest rally to express solidarity with their Karachi counterparts.

Hundreds of fishermen from different coastal villages attended the soem of the deceased PFF leaders, who were murdered last Friday in their Keamari Town Village, Kakapir, for campaigning against the land mafia.

PFF General Secretary Saeed Baloch accused the police of being reluctant to arrest the criminals involved in the killings, despite the fact that law enforcers were aware of the threat faced by those who stood up against the land mafia.

“We have received information that some armed people were seen wandering in the area last night in search of PFF activists, and we conveyed this to government authorities as well as international human rights activists and asked them to look into the matter on a priority basis,” Baloch said.

This threat is not limited to fishermen only, as it is also an environmental issue. The land mafia is jeopardising precious Mangrove forests that not only provide breading grounds for fish, but also hold immense aesthetic value, he stressed.

PFF chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said that the brave leaders were killed because they were trying to protect the mangrove forests along Karachi’s coast. He added that influential locals enjoyed the support of the land mafia and government functionaries occupied a wide area of beaches for commercial purposes.

Shah said that despite the fact that they had informed authorities about the intentions of the land mafia, who were trying to reclaim coastal land, law enforcers failed to take action; and the two leaders ultimately paid the heavy price of this negligence.

He demanded that law enforcers protect natural habitats like the mangroves because they provide cover against natural disasters. He requested citizens to support fisherman in their protest, as land grabbers were increasing Karachi’s vulnerable to face disasters like cyclones and tsunamis.

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dawn.com, 8 May 2011, Editorial

Murder of activists

the murder on Friday of two men associated with the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum remains a murky affair. Although charges have been filed, reporters who cover the affairs of the fishermen community say that the exact circumstances of the crime and the identity of the murderers remain unclear. Complicating matters is the death earlier the same day of another fisherman, one who reportedly belonged to a rival group. Whether the PFF men were killed in retaliation remains unclear; the rivalry was reportedly an ongoing one and also involved political and social influence in the area. However, one major undercurrent was almost certainly a dispute over the future of our coastal mangroves. The PFF men had been campaigning for the conservation of mangrove forests, and in the process had taken positions against those seeking to occupy and clear the land for commercial purposes. If their murders were in fact committed in retaliation for this, it constituted a huge blow to an important environmental cause. Pakistan’s mangrove forests are breeding grounds for fish and shrimp that sustain coastal communities and also serve as bulwarks against heavy rains and flooding.

But the incident also points to the larger problem of land grabbing in Karachi. In this metropolis, that is bursting at the seams, land ownership has come to be equated with money and power. The issue has become a deeply violent and politicised one, with land disputes now a routine cause of targeted killings. Sadly, a system of corruption has developed to support this; without the connivance of elements of the police and other departments of the bureaucracy, these actions would almost certainly not be taking place. Often associated with armed gangs in some of the city’s most violent areas, land grabbing may now have claimed the lives of environmental activists.

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The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
- 107 Tipu Block, New Garden Town, Lahore. Phone: (042) 35864994, 35838341, 35865969

Press statement

HRCP condemns killing of Pakistan Fisher Folk activists

Lahore, May 06, 2011: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expresses shock at the killing of Abu Bakar and Abdul Ghani Mirbahar in the Sandspit area of Karachi on Friday morning. Both members of Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum had been campaigning against the destruction of mangroves in the coastal areas. There are reasons to believe that the powerful land mafia that had been threatening them earlier is responsible for the killings. It should be noted that PFF had brought to the attention of the Government of Sindh on several occasions the threats faced by its activists.

HRCP strongly condemns the killings and calls upon the Government of Sindh to hold an impartial inquiry, bring the culprits to book and ensure justice for the families of the deceased.
Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
- PAKISTAN: Call for immediate arrest of the murderers of two activist fishermen and stop the land grabbing
- May 7, 2011
- http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAU-024-2011

Fisherfolk gather at PFF activists’ soyem, observe black day
- http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/05/week-long-protest-for-%e2%80%98mangrove-martyrs%e2%80%99/?thick=off

Protest over killing of three fishermen
- http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/07/protest-over-killing-of-three-fishermen.html