HYDERABAD, Jan 14: Leaders of peasants’ bodies, labour forums and civil society organisations welcomed the Punjab Assembly’s legislation for conferment of proprietary rights on occupancy tenants and urged Sindh Assembly to emulate Punjab and distribute state land among tenants.

Addressing a joint news conference here, Roshan Birhamani of Sindhi Hari Tehrik, Karamat Ali of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Saleem G. Abro of Sindh Agricultural and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organisation, Jabbar Bhatti of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Ghulam Mustafa Khoso of Sami Foundation, Taj Mari of Sindh Hari Porhiyat Council, Zulfiqar Shah of Institute for Social Movement and others said the Punjab Assembly’s legislation was an important step towards meeting longstanding demand of farm workers of Pakistan for redistribution of land.

Karamat Ali said the law provided legal framework for distribution of around 400,000 acres of state land among 200,000 peasants. It was great success of the Punjab peasantry, he said.

He said that peasants in Sindh had also been struggling for a long time to bring about amendments to the Sindh Tenancy Act which had become completely redundant and obsolete.

A group of civil society organisations had prepared a set of amendments to the Act, which were presented to Sindh government at the end of a 12-day long march from Hyderabad to Karachi, which was attended by 30,000 peasants.

He said the memorandum was presented to Deputy Speaker Ms Shehla Raza and other legislators on Feb 26, 2009. Later, a bill was tabled in the assembly and a committee was appointed which refused to incorporate the peasants’ demands in the bill.

He demanded that on the pattern of Punjab government, Sindh government should also grant land entitlements to those who had been cultivating it since generations. The state land should also include the land which was presently in possession of irrigation, agriculture, railways and other departments, he said.

Mr Karamat said that records of all land in possession of state and private sector should be made public, all human settlements situated on state land should be registered and land entitlements should be extended to the shelterless people.

He pointed out that landless peasantry of Sindh had become virtual subjects of powerful landlords and the Sindh Tenancy Act in its current shape was unable to protect their rights.

He said the Act should be amended in light of written charter of demands handed over to the deputy speaker of Sindh Assembly on Feb 26, 2009.