New York: Pakistani authorities used draconian laws and excessive force to prevent tenant farmers in Punjab from protesting for land rights, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
Farmers in Okara district had planned to convene on April 17, the International Day of Peasants’ and Farmers’ Struggles, the rights body said.
The authorities should drop all charges brought against those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and punish security personnel responsible for abuses against protesters, Human Rights Watch said.
“Blocking a peaceful meeting, arresting organisers and then using excessive force against demonstrators shows a complete disregard for basic rights in a democratic society,” it said.
After hundreds of villagers gathered, the police were deployed along with the army in armoured personnel carriers.
Dozens were arrested under anti-terrorism and public order provisions and many remain detained at undisclosed locations.
Numerous witnesses told Human Rights Watch that security forces beat and arrested farmers, arresting some at their homes in the middle of the night.