As India’s protesting farmers remain camped outside New Delhi, four months into their demonstration against the three agriculture laws passed in September, the movement appears to be generating a domino effect across the border. Multiple Pakistani farmer leaders, under the leadership of the organization Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (literally meaning Pakistan Farmers’ Unity) met on February 21 to work out a roadmap to launch an “India-like” protest in March, The Diplomat has learned. A formal announcement for the protest is expected next week.
The Pakistani farmers are set to rally for a list of demands, including the fixing of the minimum support price (MSP) per maund (40 kilograms) of wheat at 2,000 Pakistani rupees ($12.60), and sugarcane at 300 rupees, in addition to setting a flat electric power rate of 5 rupees per unit for farm tube-wells. Other demands include subsidies on seeds, fertilizers, and other expenses borne by the Pakistani farmers, which they maintain is making agricultural activities insufficient for their sustenance.
Pakistani farmers have had a tough 12 months. They began battling COVID-19 this time last year, which damaged the food supply chain, hitting fruit and vegetable growers especially hard. While the coronavirus pandemic posed a unique challenge to the entire world, Pakistani farmers also had to simultaneously cope with their annual nemeses, climate change and water scarcity, as the drought further exposed Pakistan’s agricultural fault-lines.
With unprecedented wheat and sugar crises also taking their toll, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has also been put under pressure by the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), prompting the rulers to take note of the farmers’ plight in recent weeks. Last week, the Punjab chief minister’s information advisor, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, maintained that the government would “guard the farmers’ rights” with Irrigation Minister Muhammad Mohsin Khan Leghari vowing irrigation reforms.
On February 6, Prime Minister Imran Khan also announced that a “huge package for farmers” will soon be unveiled. However, there is a growing feeling among Pakistani farmers that the government’s reassurances are aimed more at blunting the opposition’s criticism than at attempting to address the farmers’ quandary.
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