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UN human rights expert 'aghast' at killings of farmers in Okara, Pakistan

UN human rights expert 'aghast' at killings of farmers in Okara, Pakistan

A United Nations human rights expert has condemned the killings in Okara, Pakistan, of three tenants at army-occupied farms who were being coerced by the country's Rangers to negotiate a seven-year lease with them or vacate the area.

In a statement released on Monday in Geneva, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir, said she was "aghast at the planned and deliberate killings."

The Special Rapporteur voiced regret that the Rangers, who are directly controlled by the army, deliberately used indiscriminate force. She cited "credible reports" that the injured peasants were chained to hospital beds and charged with terrorism.

Ms. Jahangir warned the international community that "misuse of punishing marginalized sections of society in the name of terror will marginalize the prevailing war on terrorism itself." She said she was "fearful for the lives of hundreds of peasants living on army-controlled lands who are being threatened and harassed by the Rangers in Pakistan" and called upon the Government to hold an impartial and independent inquiry into the incident and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Government was also urged to ensure that the Rangers do not carry out further violence, and that peasants are not harassed and intimidated through illegal means.

According to the statement, the tenants had been tilling the farm for generations dating back nearly a hundred years. The Special Rapporteur received reports that the electricity of the farms was disconnected to punish the tenants, but when the farmers refused to negotiate with the authorities under pressure, the Rangers deliberately opened fire on the crowd, including women and children.

The act, she said, "was malicious since the Government had publicly announced ownership rights to the landless farmers, who have been sitting on government lands for decades."

In a similar situation in Khanaewal, Pakistan, the Rangers have been threatening the farmers with violence, and on another previous occasion the Rangers killed one person, according to the statement.