A large number of women, hailing from marine and inland waters participated in a huge rally organised by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) on Tuesday to end encroachment on fresh waters of the province and stop hostility against marginalized fishermen.
The rally started from Shehbaz Building and culminated outside Hyderabad Press Club, where PFF chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah, senior vice chairperson Fatima Majeed, writer and social activist Zulfiqar Halepoto, Hari leader Punhal Sario, Mustafa Meerani, Jameel Junejo, Mir Hassan Mari, Sabir Jarwar, Azad Mirwahi and others spoke. They condemned the feudal lords and chieftains, who are harassing fishermen in different areas.
The speakers accused the PPP-led Sindh government of supporting contractors and influential persons, who have deployed their armed men at fresh waters to deprive fishermen of their catch at gun point.
The PFF had announced the year 2014 as the year of struggle against encroachment on waters and vowed to mobilise the campaign with participation of the community people to save their natural sources of income. The rally was the beginning of the campaign to liberate these waters. Mohammed Ali Shah alleged those, who were elected legislators sitting in Sindh Assembly specifically the PPP leaders are backing contractors and influential persons to occupy fresh waters in their areas and deprive fishermen of their source of living.
He announced a schedule of the struggle and said since fishermen are natural custodians of these water resources they deserve to continue their source of living without any fear. He announced to take out a huge rally on February 15 in Larkana with hundreds of fishermen to end encroachment on major Hamal Lake, which is under control of tribal chieftain. Similarly, a rally will be taken out on February 20, 2014 outside Sindh Assembly, which is represented by certain encroachers and tribal chieftains, he said. Writer and social activist Zulfiqar Halepoto criticised Sindhi nationalists and other politicians, saying it seems these political leaders do not have water on their parties’ agenda. Because, they are silent over the issue, when hundreds of fisherwomen hailing from different waters participated in such a huge rally to “Save Water and Save their Source of Living.”
He also criticised the PPP leadership, which is demanding water share from federal government and Punjab but at the same time they forget what their political allies and party leaders do, as they have taken control of available water resources in the province, especially wetlands. He said this kind of dual approach of the PPP leaders should be condemned widely.
He also appealed to urban people of Sindh, who are out of this campaign for protecting water resources, saying “it is not merely the problem of villagers, fishermen and farmers; it is equal problem the urban people may face”. He asked them to realise the fact and come to support the campaign of fishermen. Punhal Sario of Sindh Hari Porhiat Council said the participation of fishermen and women in such a large number shows that they are ready to challenge the tyrannies and retrieve their waters back for continuing their livelihoods.
He lauded the role of fishermen and said feudal lords are opportunists, taking support of martial law and political governments to continue exploitation of the oppressed people. He assured the support to the fishermen of protecting their rights. There are 1,209 fresh waters in Sindh, out of which several wetlands are under the control of feudal lords. The rally participants asked the PPP-led government to take notice of encroachments on fresh waters and ensure fishermen of protecting their source of income.