KP peasants grind in the poverty mill

ISLAMABAD: Social and economic oppression continues unabated in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as the local farmers have made it a habit to exploit the peasantry who, in most of the cases, are deeply indebted to their masters and get very low wages for a day’s toil.
The wages compared to the workload come to a big naught, and the sheer exploitation has made the life of the poor peasants miserable. What to talk of living a respectable life, they find it extremely hard to make both ends meet. Their feudal lords pay them only Rs 300, in some cases even less than this, for a day’s labour at the farms, locals told Daily Times.
Living in abject poverty and being indebted, these peasants have no access to the basic necessities of life, like education, health, sanitation and electricity. As compared to other parts of the province, the social indicators are bad in the plain agricultural areas of Charsadda and Mardan towns of the province. “I cannot leave this village unless I pay the debt to the khan and, to tell you another thing, no other khan would lend me any money for that matter. Before conceding to give any money to me, the other khan would spell out his own terms and conditions, which might range from living in the village till a time the debt is serviced,” said Misri Khan, who hails from Umerzai town of Charsadda. He owes Rs 40,000 to his feudal lord.
Having seven children, his only source of income is to work at the lands of the khan for which he is paid a paltry sum of Rs 300, and at times even less, a day. Hazrat Ali, a father of ten, eight daughters and two sons. He lives a miserable life in a dilapidated two-room mud house owned by a local khan in Toru town of Mardan. He and his elder son Fazle Rabi are the only bread earners for the family. “We live in this house free of cost on the condition that we’ll have to work in farms of our khan,” Ali said, adding that he along with his son earn Rs 600 per day. “We cannot even think of having a meal unless we work on farms,” he said.
At the local level, the physical exploitation of the womenfolk of the peasantry by the khans and their siblings is a bitter fact, said a schoolteacher in Turangzai area of Charsadda town. “Nobody dares object to it, not even the civil society,” he maintained. The more destitute peasants even do not refrain from selling their girls to reduce the debt burden, although they know that their daughters would be forced into prostitution. This all happens in the garb of marriages, sources confided to this scribe. The girls so sold and bought are often taken to the Punjab, where they are exploited physically and sexually, they added.
“There is a long chain which originates from the point where the girl is located and terminates in some brothel in the southern or central Punjab. In between is the entire range of people, starting from the girl’s father to local police, touts, middlemen, pimps and an elderly woman running a den,” they said. 
According to sources, a girl living at the outskirts of Turangzai village in Charsadda, who was married by her parents to a person in central Punjab for a sum of Rs 60,000, returned home when she found her way to escape. Sources quoting the girl claimed that she did not find her spouse, once she reached her “in-laws” house.
“The girl was kept under a tight check so that she could not escape. After a weak, the ‘relatives’ forced her into prostitution, but she did not give in. One day a stranger was sent into the room where she used to sleep. Then it became a daily routine,” the sources said. The selling of their girls bring only a temporary relief in their lives as they could not sustain their families in a Rs 300 a day, as they have to borrow again from the same khans and, thus, the debt-trap tightens around their necks, some other peasants observed. 

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