LAHORE  - The farmer bodies, which have been threatening to block Wagha-Attari border for a long time, have failed to turn up at their venue of protest demonstration on Monday, March 31- the date announced by the growers’ organisations for their protest to oppose trade normalisation with India. 

The Pakistan Kissan Ittehad along with several other grower bodies including Pakistan Basmati Growers Association and Farmers Associate Pakistan, had announced to stage a sit-in at Wagha-Attari border on March 31 against liberalisation of trade with India, opposing non-discriminatory market access to India by Pakistan.

For this purpose, Pakistan Kissan Ittehad had advertised the plan of protest in all major newspapers of the country, spending millions of rupees. But on the day of protest, not a single farmer could be reached the site of protest. 

“Around one million people will stage a sit-in at the Wagha Border on March 31,” Khalid Mehmood Khokhar, central president of the Ittehad (union), had claimed in the first week of March, adding that the union was having its presence across the country and assembling one million people at the Wagha Border will not be a big task for it.

He had claimed the protest would continue till the government reverses its decision to liberalise trade and grant of NDMA to India. The protest will be preceded by a peoples’ march towards the border, he added.

However, on Monday night, March 31, when The Nation contacted Pakistan Kissan Ittehad President Khalid Mehmood Khokhar, he said “They are on the way to Lahore to stage a sit-in at Wagha but several barriers have been erected by the Punjab government in their way. Presently we have reached Pattoki and we will defiantly arranged protest in Lahore.”

To a question, Khalid Mehmood claimed that around 50,000 protesters in hundreds of busses are on the roads to attend the protest.

Pakistan Kissan Board deputy secretary general Akhtar Mayo told The Nation, that Pakistan Kissan Ittehad is not the real representatives of the growers. Hence they have failed to fulfill their commitment. He said that this association was used by the PML-N against the PPP and the same is being used by the PML-Q against the PML-N.

This is not the right way to convince the government. Who paid millions of rupees for their campaign in media, he put the query. Mayo said that Pakistan Kissan Board, the real and organised representative of farmers, is also opposing trade with India but not in that way, which has been adopted by the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad.

Pakistan Basmati Growers Association chief Hamid Malhi said that he is not participating physically in protest but his association endorses the cause of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad.