Computerization of land record needed to identify land owners

April 10, 2013 Off By Web Desk

KARACHI: As general elections are drawing close, the political parties of Pakistan should come forward with renewed commitment and play their due role for computerization of whole land record of the country so as to end illegal occupations of lands by feudal lords.

“The computerization of land will significantly help end feudal system and identify land owners. “Pakistan inherited feudal system from British Raja. Land distribution in Pakistan is highly unequal as 5% of large landholders possess 64% of total farm land and 65% small farmers hold 15% of land,” said Mahjabeen Khan, Program Manager, Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment SCOPE in an interview with PPI at her office here on Wednesday.

The SCOPE official said: “Feudal lords have occupied huge area of land in Pakistan, leaving a small share for lower class people. They have made documents of land with the names of their close relatives and servants but kept their original documents with them, which is great injustice in Pakistan society. Hence computerization of countrywide land is necessary.”
Agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan economy, accounting for 25% of GDP, 60% of export earnings and 48% of employment,” she said. The SCOPE official said that the computerization of land record will also help identify the category of land under forest, rain irrigated, canal, salinity, water logging and enemy India land.

She informed that a huge area of land in Thar was left by Thakurs, Rathors, Meghhwars and other rich people while shifting to India soon after the establishment of Pakistan. These lands are called enemy lands in documents of the government and are given on leases. These lands should also be immediately brought in the record of Pakistan government, she urged.
“Such enemy lands are located in Chhachhro, Mithi, Diplo and Nangarparkar talukas in Thar.” There is also need to introduce land use policy in the country to end degradation of soil like water logging and salinity,” she said.

Mahjabeen Khan said that recent passage of Sindh Tenancy Amendment Act Bill from Sindh Assembly is deceit with farmers’ community. The Act has been amended at the will of feudal lords present at the assembly, leaving farmers in quandary.

She said that Article 17, 23 and 24 of Sindh Tenancy Act had been amended in favour of landlords. “With amendment of the Article 17, landlords could take free labour work from a farmer, while the 23 and 24 Articles will compel farmers to pay whole tractor level ling work charges and half crop cutting and thrashing cost,” she elaborated.

She said that as the Sindh government amended this Act in hurry and at the end time of its tenure without incorporating farmer community’s proposals, so it will be good to amend it again soon after new government is formed through upcoming general elections.

Mahjabeen said that corporate farming introduced in Pakistan is harmful for country as it would cause land grabbing, food insecurity and inflation.

Giving details of corporate lands in Pakistan, she said that investors from Abu Dhabi bought about 16,000 hectares of farmland in Balochistan. Emirates Investment Group and Abraaj Capital are also investing directly in corporate farming. The UAE has purchased 324,000 hectares of farmland in the Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan in June 2008.”

There is need to end corporate farming from the country for good of farmers community and development of agriculture sector, she stressed. “Corporate farming is just not about land grabbing, but it is actually grabbing of virtual water, in the form of agricultural produce to be exported, in other words CAF is about to export virtual water which is basis of our food security.”

Mahjabeen said existing provincial tenancy Acts should be reformed to allow workers to establish unions, demand fair wages and receive land titles supporting their legal rights to the land, while legal mechanisms should be put in place to adjudicate complaints and resolve conflicts.

She said all laws and regulations regarding land developed under colonial era should be abandoned and a judicial commission on land utilisation should be formed to check exceeding commercialization of land. To avoid water logging and salinity, the canals, branches and watercourses should be lined. The government must draw up an agriculture policy with the consultation of agriculture scientists, peasants, agriculture workers and growers, she concluded.