JHANG: Police on Tuesday told Justice Mehboob Elahi that more than 20,000 acres of arid land has become barren due to water theft by powerful Shahjewana family headed by Syeda Abida Hussain. Jhang police claimed to have caught seven people, including Shabbar Raza, manager of Abida, for stealing water by breaching canal banks to irrigate her sugarcane farms. Police lodged an FIR and detained Shabbar but his name was excluded from the case later and other workers were named in the case. According to police report, Abida has more than 1,250 acres of land in Shahjewana and all her land is being irrigated with water stolen from more than 25 villages. Police produced the arrested workers in the court to seek physical remand. “More than twenty thousand acre of arid land has been turned barren and the poor farmers are committing suicide due to their financial constrains as the water of their share had been stolen by powerful political personality of that areas,” the police told Justice Mehboob Elahi who is hearing the case in Jhang. The judge had ordered the police to compile a comprehensive report in this regard. Inspector Rana Shakoor told Daily Times that although he was under tremendous pressure but he has decided to stand up against this cruelty being meted out to the poor farmers and has now decided to arrest the people named in the FIR, including Syed Asad Hayat, brother of Faisal Saleh Hayat. The people from Massan also requested the Punjab government to take action against the “criminals”. The police assured the court that action would be taken against all accused named in the FIR and rights of the poor would be protected as per directives of the Punjab chief minister. Shakoor also said that Asad Hayat’s house was raided but he fled. The people flayed the police for arresting the poor workers and managers and sparing the owners of the farms.