Jul 04, 2011

Sindh: Defending the Environment Cost Fishermen their Lives

When acting against the cutting of mangroves, fishermen were attacked and killed; their families are now speaking up and accusing Pakistani authorities of protecting neither natural resources nor the lives of its citizens. 

Below is an article published by Pakistan Today

“Despite our cries nobody has come to help us. Why are the government authorities silent when land mafia members and influential criminals have deprived us of our fathers, husbands and brothers? Nobody dares to raise a voice to portray the truth,” said the daring fisherwomen from coastal areas, while addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Friday [1 July 2011].

Speaking on the occasion, Ayesha, daughter of slain leader of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Abdul Ghani, said that her father was killed at the hands of such powerful people, who appear to be more powerful than the government itself. “When you all will return home, someone will be there to receive you but I have lost my father.”

Shahida, daughter of late PFF leader Haji Abu Bakar, said that she was at home when her father and his close relative Ghani were kidnapped and killed. “We saw how the criminals kidnapped them on gunpoint, thrashing their family members to hush them up at the time. We cannot forget the moment. We are eyewitnesses to how the criminals had threatened us earlier.”

“They asked our elders to stop raising voice against mangroves cutting but when they continued their campaign, they were killed.

“Our elders were innocent. Their only sin was that they took the initiative against deforestation of mangroves, which are natural resources and above all the natural shield against oceanic disasters.

“We will not live silently,” she dared, “and will continue raising our voices against mangrove cutting. We want the government to protect our natural resources, our lives and livelihoods. Our school-going children are facing threats and might be killed at the hands of such people as criminals are on a rampage.”

Also present on the occasion, Mai Hajrah, the mother of Abu Bakar, and their relatives Hajiani Sughra, Hajiani Rahmat and Mai Saran, appealed that the President of Pakistan, Prime Minister, Sindh Chief Minister, Sindh Inspector General of Police, all political leaders and human rights activists extend their helping hands to ensure the protection to the fisherfolk community as the criminals are still at large, threatening them to leave their ancestral abodes. 

Members of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) were also present on the occasion to express solidarity with the relatives of victims, Haji Abu Bakar and Abdul Ghani.

The fisherwomen, associated with the PFF, claimed that they have witnessed the criminals enjoying the support from government, police and certain parliamentarians. “Despite tall claims, political leaders from different parties could not come forward to save our relatives,” the women activists said.

Thanking those who had helped them at difficult moments, the fisherwomen said these were the people working for community development as they had launched schools to ensure education to the poor community members. “Though criminals have killed our elders to crush our voice, we will live with dignity. We will face these threats and are ready to sacrifice for the great cause of protecting our natural resources.