Urgent Appeals: PAKISTAN Military ignores tribunal’s decision

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-003-2009
19 January 2009
PAKISTAN: Military ignores tribunal’s decision
ISSUES: Administration of justice

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding a case where the military officials are continuing to ignore a court order. The decision made by the Federal Service Tribunal (FST) concerning the employment of two peasants, formerly employed by the military, is yet to be complied with.

CASE DETAILS:
Mr. James Masih and Mr. Ghani Masih worked as dry stock attendants at the military farm in Panjnad, Okara district, Punjab province. They were fired by the military authorities (through an order dated April 29, 2004), on the charge of being the brothers of Mr. Younus Iqbal Masih. Masih is the chief of The Anjuman Mazaraeen Okara (The Peasant Association of Okara), a rights organisation that fights against the continued efforts of the Pakistan military to change their title of ‘tenant’, to that of ‘contractual labourer’.

At the beginning of the retrenchment process, military authorities (in a charge sheet dated 10 December 2002) claimed that the men’s performance and standards of discipline weren’t up to the required standard, and they were involved in undesirable activities. However at the end of the inquiry when the two were fired, it was put down to the fact that both men were still “enjoying good relations with (their) brother” and thus helping him in his “subversive activities.”

The brothers took their case to the Federal Service Tribunal, Lahore, which challenged the military with an impugn judgment (the verdict for one person applying to the other defendants in the case), and ordered them through the federal secretary of the defense ministry, to conduct a new, coherent inquiry. In the next charge sheet (February 13, 2004) the military authorities claimed that the brother in question “was engaged in subversive activities and (his) retention in service is prejudicial to national security. So, (he is) liable to be dismissed from service.”

After the victim submitted his reply, another inquiry was set in motion by the military authorities, led by Dr. Muhammad Amer Ayub, a veterinary officer. The vet concluded that the man had actively supported his brother Younus Masih and other tenants in their uprising against military farms management. They were dismissed from December 31, 2003.

The appellant filed his departmental appeal (May 13 2004) before the assistant director of headquarters at the military farm, but no decision came back to him. He then filed an instant appeal before the Federal Service Tribunal on July 28, 2004.

On November 6, 2008, the Federal Services Tribunal ruled that the firing of the man was illegal and that he should be reinstated, with the period since his dismissal treated and paid for as leave. The tribunal observed that: “we feel that (an) appellant should not be penalised for his hardship with his brother and father, and should not be made to pay for (their) sins.” Being an impugned judgment, the decision applies to all 32 persons who were retrenched by the military authorities during the 2001 movement of the peasants of military farms.

The military authorities and Ministry of Defense have refused to follow the decision of the Federal Service Tribunal, which is binding for every official ministry and departments. The victims remain jobless and are still barred from entering their former homes at the farm.

The military officials need to be taken to task and reminded of their role in the country. The brothers must be immediately returned to their jobs and homes, and compensated for the wages lost so far. The military officers also clearly need to be given something useful to do; it is unlikely that such activities can be held up as a worthy use of Pakistan’s defense budget.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
The Punjab (Provincial) Board of Revenue has leased out large tracts of agricultural land, tilled by tenants and their forefathers for over 80 years, to military farms and other organisations like the Punjab Seed Corporation. The leases have already expired, but instead of vacating the land, the military have publicly claimed ownership of it. The military authorities have been pressing the Board of Revenue to transfer the ownership of these lands from the peasants to the military. Their latest move – the request of a permanent land transfer of over 20,000 acres in Okara and Lahore by the Ministry of Defense in February 1, 2000 – occurred just three months after the Musharraf coup. Nevertheless, the board refused (in a letter dated April 13, 2001).

In June 2000 the administration of Okara’s military farms–the largest of the many state farms spreads over 17,000 acres–told the tenants that they would no longer be considered as tenants but instead would have to sign limited-year contracts on their own land. They were told to pay cash rent to military authorities instead of the usual harvest shares. The tenants refused because they knew that while tenancy laws protected them from eviction, their jobs would not be safe as contract workers. The contract in question banned the personal use of trees and soil of the land, bound contractors’ loyalty and obedience to the military officers and made the contractor responsible for preventing crimes. The slightest breach of the contract would lead to its cancellation. As the situation has grown more polarised, officers have begun demanding the outright ownership of the land.

The total area under lease to military farms in various districts of Punjab amounts to 166,204 acres and the military argument, that the area is close to the border, only applies to 1,450 acres in the district of Kasur. In fact, like other exclusive defense housing societies found in major cities, these military farms have nothing to do with the defense of the country.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write a letter to the government authorities below, demanding the re-instatement of the two peasants at the military farm in Panjdnad, Okara, with back benefits from the day they were unjustly fired.

To support this appeal, please click here:
www.ahrchk.net

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