At a condolence event on Saturday, human rights and trade union activists on Monday paid rich tribute to founder of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Muhammad Ali Shah, saying that he spent his life fighting not only for the rights of the fishing community but also for other downtrodden communities, such as peasants and people affected by the Thar Coal project.
Shah had passed away on August 19 due to complications of Covid-19. He was 66.
The condolence event was organised at the Arts Council of Pakistan by the Joint Action Committee, a Karachi-based alliance of civil society organisations, to reflect on the life and achievements of the deceased fishing community leader.
In 1998, Shah founded along with his companions the PFF, a countrywide organisation of the fishing community.
Speakers at the event recalled that Shah always called for justice when it came to the fishermen imprisoned in the Pakistani and Indian jails, construction of dams on the Indus River, abolition of the contracting system on lakes, and construction of illegal jetties.
The late rights activist also faced jail terms while fighting for the rights of the fishermen, it was said.
Recently, Shah led a campaign against the federal government’s announcement of constructing cities on the twin islands of Bundal and Dingi. He also played an active role in demanding for implementation of basic human rights from the platform of the Awami Tehreek.
Because of his lifelong struggle, Shah was also made the chairman of the Asia region of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP), a global forum for the small-scale fishermen.
Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) said Shah’s friends would carry on his struggle and move forward the PFF in a democratic way.
Faisal Edhi, philanthropist and head of the Edhi Foundation, remembered the times when he worked with Shah for the release of fishermen languishing in jails of Pakistan and India for fishing in disputed waters. “The struggle for releasing innocent and poor fishermen from jails of both countries should be continued,” Faisal said.
Abdul Khaliq Junejo, head of the Jeay Sindh Mahaz, said that although the PFF was a non-governmental organisations, it was organised by Shah on a political basis and he also focused on ensuring the participation of women in the PFF’s campaigns.
PFF Senior Vice Chairperson Fatima Majeed said her father Majeed Motani was imprisoned in an Indian jail for fishing in disputed waters in the 1980s. “When Shah, Motani and other fishermen leaders formed the PFF, we have been associated with the organisation since then,” she added.
Praising the late activist for his struggle for a cleaner environment, PFF Secretary General Saeed Baloch said Shah ran various campaigns to create awareness among the people against the challenges of climate change and pollution.
Shah’s children Yasmeen Shah and Mehran Shah said their parents, Shah and his wife Tahira Shah, had spent their lives in the struggle for the fishing community’s rights and their mission would be continued. Tahira, who was the PFF vice-chairperson, died in a car accident near Sujawal in 2015.
Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Chairperson Nuzhat Shirin, Aurat Foundation’s Mahnaz Rehman, National Trade Union Federation’s Nasir Masnoor, Piler’s Zulfiqar Shah, researcher Ely Ercelan, historian Gul Hasan Kalmati, and journalist Dodo Chandio were also among the speakers who paid tribute to Shah.
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