Farmers call off protest after successful talks with govt

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A large number of farmers, under the banner of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) ended their 27-hour sit-in in Lahore  after successful negotiations with a government team on Thursday.

PKI leader, Rizwan Iqbal, while briefing the media said that government has accepted three of their five demands after which they ended the sit-in.

Earlier, the farmers from different districts of the Punjab started gathering in Lahore on Tuesday to stage a sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly under the banner of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) in a bid to press for their demands. The resentment among farmers further aggravated when the Lahore Police started arresting farmers and PKI Central President Khalid Mahmood Khokhar was also arrested who was later released in the night.

A delegation of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) also visited the protest site to show the party’s solidarity with the farmers. The Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, Manzoor Ahmad Watto and former minister for information and broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira addressed the protesters.

Former governor Punjab and a central leader of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Ch Muhammad Sarwar also visited the sit-in and demanded the immediate release of the farmers. Talking to the protesters, he said that the agriculture sector plays an important role in the development of the economy, but it is a pity that not a single regime ever tried to uplift the poor farmers in the past history of the country.

The farmers came from almost all the districts of Punjab, including Okara, Sahiwal, Pakpattan, Multan, Lodhran, Vehari and DG Khan. It is pertinent to mention here that farmers staged a similar sit-in at the same place during the last month and they ended their protest after receiving assurances from Provincial Agriculture Minister Dr Farukh Javed at that time.

Muhammad Saleem, a protesting farmer from district Pakpattan, told Pakistan Today that he received a hefty electricity bill of Rs 90,000 last month which he cannot afford because he is not being paid the real price of his agriculture products. “The government must introduce a support price for our agriculture products and the rate of electricity must be fixed at Rs 5.35 per unit for our tub wells,” Saleem, an owner of 40-acre land said.

PKI central president Khalid Khokhar said that their hundreds of colleagues are still under arrest and this protest can become violent if the government did not release them. He also warned of a long march towards Islamabad if their demands were not accepted and their colleagues were not released.

However, Lahore Police Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf claimed that some 200 farmers were detained from the Mall Road and adjoining areas, and they are being sent to their respective districts.

Minister Dr Farukh Javed rejected the sit-in of farmers and termed it “a political demonstration of some political parties.” He said the agriculture sector is on a continuous decline all over the world, but the government of PML-N is trying hard to revive this vital sector.

Read more: Farmers protest outside PA against govt’s anti-farmer agriculture policy