Land reforms still a dream in Pakistan: new report Country facing acute rural poverty, food insecurity

September 24, 2013 Off By Web Desk

KARACHI: Pakistan is facing acute rural poverty and food insecurity as its massive rural population comprises mostly of landless labour without proper legal coverage, says a new report released by Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment SCOPE here on Tuesday.

The report said that the country’s political and administrative system is dominated by powerful feudal lords, who have been dodging past efforts of land reforms. “Due to Corporate Agriculture Farming CAF policy, the dangers of large scale land grabbing and eviction of small and landless farmers loom over the heads of poor small and landless farmers. “

The SCOPE report further said that against this condition, however, the mainstream civil society and media do not provide adequate coverage to rural poverty and their related food security and land issues to influence policy and decision makers.

According to the report, the SCOPE has embarked on major journey to bring land reforms, ensure food security and alleviate poverty in the country and in this connection, it is also organizing a regional conference on experience sharing on land right advocacy and a national training workshop on advocacy skill on 26 and 27 September 2013 in Islamabad respectively in which local as well as international environment experts will present guidelines in this regard.

The report said that inequality of land ownership and landlessness is major cause of poverty and backwardness in the country. We all realize that in Pakistan small farms less than 25 acres constitute 88% of the total number of all agricultural farms, and 57 % of total farm area. The 54 % of the total farm area in the small farm sector is cultivated by tenant or share croppers. Since tenants lose half of any increase in output to the landlord, they lack the incentive to invest in technology, which would raise yields. Because of their weak financial and social position they also lack the ability to make such investment.

The corporate agriculture farming CAF policy of Government of Pakistan, announced during the Musharraf regime, is against the economic and food security interests of the nation.

Country has experienced three attempts of ineffective land reforms in 1959, 1972 and 1977. Redistributive land reforms state’s takeover of land from large landowners and its allotment to the landless farmers did not achieve a great deal due to the political power wielded by the landowning classes. Unfortunately in 1977, General Zia Ul Haq toppled the civil government and during his era a Shariat bench of Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld an appeal to declare land reforms against the law of Shariat. Abid Hassan Minto, Chairman of Workers Party Pakistan, along with other political leaders and social activists has moved to Supreme Court of Pakistan to challenge this verdict.

“The land recovered from large land owners should be distributed among the peasant landless farmers, who have been working there with proper legal titles. The 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.”

The report said: “All laws and regulations regarding land developed under colonial era should be abandoned and a judicial commission on land utilization should be formed to check exceeding commercialization of land. The landless farmer families are allotted a sizeable agriculture land.”

“Equitable distribution at the tail end is imperative. 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. The parliament should be persuaded to pass legislation for protection of the peasant’s rights, allowing them to have their trade unions, ensuring social justice and providing old age benefits to them, the report concluded.