Sunday August 14, 2022

LG candidates in dilemma due to tobacco growers protest

By Our Correspondent
December 13, 2021

SWABI: The candidates for the upcoming local government elections from almost all the political parties, including the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, are faced with a dilemma due to the ongoing farmers’ movement against the cultivation of tobacco crop and the alleged indifferent attitude of the companies and local politicians towards their plight.

During the background interviews, the tobacco growers said that the government and local politicians had left them at the mercy of national and multinational companies, which, they alleged, were exploiting them.

The farmers, including Kamil Khan, Ahmad Ali Khan, Liaqat Ali, Zamrud Khan and others said that they would not cast vote in the local government elections to register a silent protest against the candidates fielded by the ruling PTI and the opposition parties in the district.

However, Gul Zaman, Siraj Khan, Famanuddin and a number of other tobacco growers said that they would go to the polling stations on December 19 and cast their votes for the candidates of opposition parties to teach a lesson to the incumbent rulers.

They said local politicians affiliated with the opposition parties had no powers to resolve their grievances and the situation would have been different had the ruling PTI had played a pro-active and supported the tobacco growers. “Today, several farmers in villages of tobacco growing areas burnt the produce in their fields as the national and multi-national companies did not purchase it,” Liaqat Khan Yousafzai, a grower in the Dagai town, said when contacted via telephone.

He said that many growers had announced not to grow tobacco and opt for other crops owing to a number of reasons.

Asfandyar, another tobacco grower, said companies and government departments had always shown green pastures to the growers at the sowing season but never honoured pledges at the time the produce was harvested.

He asked the government and the companies to put a halt to the alleged exploitation of the tobacco growers or else they would have no other option but to stop the cultivation of tobacco in Swabi.

Junaid Javed, a candidate of the PTI for the councillor seat in Bakyana village, declined to comment on the farmers’ protest movement.

However, he dispelled the impression that the tobacco growers would boycott the LG elections. It may be mentioned that tobacco growers have launched a campaign against the cultivation of tobacco due to alleged excessive exploitation of national and international companies and levying heavy taxes on the commodity by the government.

Farmers’ representatives, including Arif Khan, Liaqat Khan Yousafzai, Muhammad Ali Dagiwal, Ahmad Jan Kaka, Syed Inayat Ali Shah Bacha, Abid Ali, Asfandyar, Shahab Khan and others are leading the movement.

The leaders are holding meetings with tobacco growers in almost all the villages and towns of the district to convince them not to cultivate the crop for at least one year.

Last year, the companies did not purchase the entire produce from the growers and a handsome quantity of tobacco is still lying in their godowns, which had inflicted huge losses on the farmers.