Online press conference held on land acquisition and resettlement in Thar

  • Calendar Nov 24, 2020

KARACHI, LAHORE, ISLAMABAD: The civil society representatives have showed their grave concerns over ever-increasing irregularities and human rights violations in the ongoing land acquisition and resettlement processes taking place without any policy in Thar. They demanded the government to adopt a ‘people centered’ policy to deal with land acquisition and resettlement related to coal mining, power plants and associated projects in Thar.

While terming the proposed Thar land acquisition and resettlement policy as crucial to deal with the peculiar conditions of the local communities and their land entitlements, they said the policy must be developed through a broader consultative process, involving the local communities as a primary stakeholder.

They raised these concerns and demands in an online press conference which was organized under the auspices of Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE) here on Tuesday.

Muhammad Ali Shah, chairman of Pakistan Fisher-folk Forum (PFF), said the promise of progress and prosperity, which the government made with the local people of Thar, had gone sour in the face of ever increasing injustices being meted out to them in land acquisition for coal power projects.

Dispossession, displacement, deprivation and disempowerment are all that the local people of Thar have gained in wake of land acquisition for coal power projects in their homeland, he said.

He lamented that the ongoing land acquisition and resettlement processes in Thar were characterized by arbitrariness, exclusionary decision-making, non-transparency and extraordinary delays in payment of compensation amounts. While terming the private companies as the sole beneficiaries of existing state of affairs, he said acquisition of any more land in Thar must be stopped with immediate effect till the adoption of the proposed policy.

Advocate Syed Ghazenfur, a representative of Alternative Law Collective (ALC), said the laws like Land Acquisition Act 1894, under which land acquisition was taking place in Thar, were the relics of Pakistan’s colonial past. The citizens’ rights to property under those colonial laws, he said, were subject to state’s unscrupulous demands for expropriation.

Employing the emergency provisions of the colonial law in Thar was meant to bypass the due process for land acquisition, avoid protection of rights enshrined in constitution and deprive the local communities of adequate amount of compensation against their land and other assets, he said.

While terming the land acquisition and resettlement processes in Thar as highly lopsided, he lamented that the government was prioritizing commercial interests of private companies over the basic human rights of its citizens.

Jan Muhammad Halepoto, a community representative from Thar, said depriving the locals of their ancestral homes, native villages, farmlands and pastures was causing poverty and destitution in Thar. Provision of no alternative land or any compensation against the pastures (gowchar) acquired for mining and power plants was causing serious livelihood challenges for an overwhelmingly livestock dependent local population.

He said instead of forcefully buying land from the locals and completely alienating them from their land in Thar, the government should acquire their land on a mutually-agreed, time-bound lease which should be paid yearly.