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Policy demanded for land acquisition and resettlement in Thar

Karachi

November 26, 2020

Civil society representatives have shown 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.

The government should adopt a ‚Äúpeople-centered‚ÄĚ policy to deal with land acquisition and resettlement related to coal mining, power plants, and associated projects in Thar, they said in an online press conference. which was organised under the auspices of Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE) here on Tuesday.

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.

Muhammad Ali Shah, chairman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), said the promise of progress and prosperity, which the government made to 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.

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

Shah lamented that the ongoing land acquisition and resettlement processes in Thar were characterised by arbitrariness, exclusionary decision-making, non-transparency, and extraordinary delays in the payment of compensation amounts.

Terming the private companies as the sole beneficiaries of the existing state of affairs, he said the acquisition of any more land must be stopped immediately till the adoption of the proposed policy.

Advocate Syed Ghazenfur, a representative of the Alternative Law Collective (ALC), said laws like the 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 the state’s unscrupulous demands for expropriation.

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

Describing the land acquisition and resettlement processes in Thar as highly lopsided, he lamented that the government was prioritising the 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 were causing poverty and destitution in Thar. The provision of no alternative land or compensation against the pastures (gowchar) acquired for mining and power plants was causing serious livelihood challenges for the overwhelming livestock-dependent local population, he added.