Pakistan One Year After the Floods by Christian Parenti (The Nation)
“Why would desperately poor flood victims fight to stay in a dust-choked tent camp on the outskirts of a violent mega-city rather than go back to their homes? [...]
“‘We don’t want to go back because the landlord will double our debt,’ says Hassan Khoso. ‘We want the government to give us land.’ He says that landlords have been coming to the camp urging the haris to return. Khoso and others say that is part of what keeps them close to the city. Along with work, there is access to hospitals and the promise—at least the promise—of education for their children.
“As at the camp on the western edge of Karachi, these people have formed a camp committee. To make their demands heard they marched to the local press club and held a sit-in. And how are such calls for reform and development being met by officials? Dead silence. [...]
“At the camp on the outskirts of Karachi one landlord from Baluchistan came with five armed guards, threatening to take away several brothers from a family named Bux. All the brothers were in debt to the landlord; he threatened to lock them in his private jail if they did not return and start working. But the camp rallied and faced him down.
“All through the Indus flood zone I heard similar stories—landless haris in urban camps preferring to become day laborers rather than return to debt peonage in the districts and landlords complaining that relief aid was keeping the haris away from their obligations. Standing on an earthen levee along a canal in the village of Arazi in the Dadu district of northern Sindh, a stout landlord named Kahari Bhutto exclaimed, ‘The farmworkers—their homes were wiped out, and they are gone. I don’t know where they are. Landowners themselves are having to do the work!’”