In the southern province of Sindh, more than a thousand kilometers south, bloody frontiers with Afghanistan, land lords terrify people but these are not war lords. A group of land-owners control the most fertile lands of the Indus river plain forcing millions of farmers into slavery.
In Pakistan war, oppression and land are always linked; in villages around cotton and sugarcane fields where religious extremism is taking root thanks to poverty.The high spheres of political-military establishment that is blocking the country because it does not allow a land property reform and is not looking for a durable solution to terrorism.
“Land owners give seeds, fertilizers and other means of production to farmers as advance, then they rise prices and force analphabet farmers, who do not notice the cheat, to ask for new loans and work to give money back” says Ghulam Hyder, Green Rural Development Organization director, a NGO that fights to make slave farmers free and rehabilitate them.
“In extreme poverty due to the spiral of debt, many families give their children to Islamic extremists who ensure them food and education”. In fact, Hyder points out the courtyard of a madrassa, or religious school, with many young students following the Taliban people also nicknamed ‘ long beards’, exponents of jihadist warmongering tendencies.
“In last ten years Taliban madrassas have multiplied in our region”, says Hyder, while we continue on the road linking Hderbad ( ex-provincial capital of Sindh ) to Bhit Shah holy city.Here every year, pilgrims visit Sufi Shah Abdul Bhittai’s grave poet of moderate Islamic and preacher of brotherhood among all religions.
“Sindh has always been religiously tolerant” says rural development activist and local community expert Nisar Nizamani, “but since Pakistan fights terrorism with USA, Taliban people reacted strengthening their presence in our province, luring and indoctrinating young soldiers.”
Besides rural poverty and religious extremism’s escalation, government coalition guided again by the Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League is not acting.
“Until today, government found convenient to have American armies in exchange with anti-Taliban support in Washington“, says Forman Christian College history teacher in Lahore,Yaqoob Bangash. “ Military and political union starts to be divided among who really wants to fight against jihadist people and who prefer a softer attitude to avoid reprisals against authorities, who certainly remember the fatal attack to anti- Taliban Bezanir Bhutto, ex- secretary of the Pakistan People’s party and Prime Minister for two times. This way, North conflict against Islamic terrorists could freeze like East conflict against India for Kashmir and West conflict against rebels of Balochistan at the Iranian frontier“.
“ Since the independence of the country, every kind of progress is blocked by war excuse ”, says Yaquub. Particularly since members of Federal Parliament, of provincial assemblies, soldiers and their parents control arable lands and agricultural production.
“ In order to help small farmers to become richer, for years we have been asking for land property reformation and a new land distribution“ says Hyder “ large landowners rulers do not want to renounce to their lands ( not even a small part )”.
Actual rules are not met because of the fact that political power and land power coincide.
“ Many provinces, including Sindh province, have not applied federal laws supposed to abolish forced labour” says Zulfiqar Shah, Pakistan Institute for education and work research expert. The result is that tribunals cannot do anything against land lords who exploit small farmers or sell them to others to have debts paid.
Third-millennium slave trading is exactly in front of us. While we are searching the Shangar area rich plantations, 100 km from Hyderabad, we see a man with his son moving on a cart drawn by a tractor. They are bringing with them a hut in clay and wood to put it in a different place. “We were sold for 400.000 rupees” says the father “we are moving to our new owner’s house”.
Land slavery is hostage of war slavery. “No change is possible in Pakistan until the country is involved in the fight against terrorism” comments Adil Ansari, communication expert of Pakistan Movement for justice, the opposition party guided by Imran Khan ex cricket champion who was the third runner up in the 2013 elections.
We meet Adil during Muharram religious celebrations, after we organized the appointment via mail because of mobile communications interruption. During manifestations, mobile phones were off to prevent extremists from using them as detonator and activating again bombs against Shiite minority processions.
“By helping USA to kill innocent people among frontier tribes that in the past defended our country against external threats, terrorism came to us” says Adil “this way, in 9 years we killed 50.000 civilians giving Afghan Taliban people a scapegoat to collect followers among tribal populations belonging to their own Pakhtun ethnicity and culture and turn them against us”.
Recent supplies block to USA contingent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, frontier province of Afghanistan, where Imran Khan party got the majority of seats, is the first concrete demonstration that American military intervention is not accepted.”Washington will be forced not use killer drones in our territory so that we can negotiate a break with Taliban people and stop fighting in this country once for all” says Adil.”Imran Khan party is not different from parties that are now in power” pointed out Heyder. “It is possible that he’s against war, but he has already expressed himself against land redistribution”.