As Pakistan draws up its energy future, coal finds itself central in that picture. The impact of this future is being felt by the communities of Thar whose everyday lives are being transformed beyond recognition. The litany of this devastation is vast from death, illnesses, the loss of lands, to an erasure of a cultural and material livelihood – the creation of a dead zone. It is this devastation that forms the background to the call for the People’s Tribunal on coal.
Why People’s Tribunal?
Typically, People’s Tribunals have been used by communities in struggle when the sense that formal/dominant legal processes have failed and will continue to fail. By establishing the People’s Tribunal process in Pakistan, it is envisaged that the full range of activities on coal can be brought into conversation with each other under its auspices. The diverse work in opposition to coal activities in Pakistan requires integration and a nexus which allows it to be generative of public memory and public judgement.
The People’s Tribunal aims to provide a processual framework for the range of disparate work taking place in opposition to the ever-increasing role of coal in Pakistan’s energy sector. Driven by the communities struggling in Thar, the tribunal further aims to bring together the numerous communities opposing coal, which includes those living in the shadows of coal power plants and coal importation facilities; activists and communities opposing coal for its impact on global climate, environment and public health; lawyers working to provide stronger reviews on coal sector and enhanced environmental protections; the renewable industries struggling to make inroads into the energy sector biased towards fossil fuels.
How People’s Tribunal work?
Tribunals take their form with the specificities of context, concerns and formulations. As such, the People’s Tribunal on coal aims to initiate its deliberations in Thar where communities-in-struggle have been resisting the creation of toxic and dead zones on their lands.
An indictment is drafted in local language which identifies the core concerns, providing witness, testimony and evidence. This is followed by regional and provincial sessions of the People’s Tribunal on coal, bringing together wider political communities, activists, lawyers, academics, researchers, doctors and other concerned communities. Evidentiary sessions are conducted, bringing the experientiality of coal in Thar into wider conversation. Conclusions from each evidentiary session is presented in a final session of the tribunal, with a jury comprising people from Thar along with international and national experts. As each session adds to public memory on coal, the final session aims to pass a public judgement on coal in Thar specifically and coal power more generally.