KARACHI: A comprehensive pro-poor land and agrarian reforms programme should be introduced and implemented in Pakistan with immediate effect to alleviate poverty and bring socio-economic development, says a report issued by National Peasants Coalition of Pakistan (NPCP) here on Sunday.
According to the NPCP report, the government needs to draw up a comprehensive agriculture policy with the consultation of agriculture scientists, peasants, agriculture workers and growers.
All laws and regulations regarding land developed under colonial era should be abolished and a judicial commission on land utilization should be formed to check exceeding commercialization of land. The verdict of Shariat Bench of Supreme Court, which declared land reforms against Islamic principles, should be reviewed and revoked through legislation.
State land and the land recovered from large land owners should be distributed with proper legal titles among the peasant landless farmers who have been working there. Land ownership ceiling be fixed with an appropriate size on family basis. The necessary legislation should be introduced in favour of land reforms.
Landless women should be given priority in land re-distribution program and all discriminatory legal and cultural practices be abandoned which prevent women from property rights. On a priority, first of all productive land that has past history of cultivation should be brought under land reforms; the local persons be given ownership rights, there should be effective monitoring system to ensure that right person is allotted land and s/he is cultivating the land under land and agrarian reforms programme. The agriculture land occupied by or allotted to military farms and government departments should be revoked and distributed among the landless peasants. The government policy of Corporate Agricultural Farming (CAF) contradicts with longstanding public demand of land reforms and also with the human rights of people of Pakistan. Hence, corporate forming should not be promoted under the current policy framework. There must be a new legal framework which must ensure food security, abiding of labour laws and a ceiling limit over land.
Allotment of forest land to the influential persons has to be revoked and re-allotted to the peasants on the condition of re-forestation. The occupied surveyed or un-surveyed lands in the country must be re-surveyed and distributed among the landless peasants and agriculture workers families.
The existing provincial tenancy acts should be reformed to allow workers to establish unions. Farmer courts should be established while legal mechanisms should also be put in place to adjudicate complaints and resolve conflicts. Equitable distribution of irrigation water at the tail-end is imperative. To avoid water logging and salinity, the canals, branches and watercourses should be lined.
The previous waves of land reforms in 1960s, and 70s were half heartedly implemented by governments but they largely failed to deliver in practice. In other words land redistribution did not bring equitable distribution of resources in the rural economy.
Landownership patterns are highly skewed in nature in Pakistan with large number of farmers own less land, making this a challenging task to trim down the socio-economic and political influence over services of small numbers of large land holders.
Absentee landlord system has contributed little to production but extracted as much as possible from the sharecroppers (haris) who cultivate the land. In future the existing socio-economic structure that provides disproportionate power to large landlords will continue to exist unless institutional support by the public sector is targeted to small farmers. Even if access to information and capital for acquiring modern technology is equally distributed, the large farmers are likely to gain more absolutely from technology than the small farmers due to rising costs of technology. It is widely accepted that redistribution of land to small farmers leads to greater land productivity, improves macro-economic performance, ensures distribution of income and reduces poverty. Land reforms need to be viewed in the larger context of agrarian reforms that enable efficient joint cultivation, extension support, and most important, a fair contractual relationship to the tenants and share-croppers of large landlords. In addition, such reforms need to take off where the last reforms left off to ensure continuity.
Land reforms were an unfinished agenda. Pakistan has experienced three attempts of ineffective land reforms in 1959, 1972 and 1977. Redistributive land reforms (states 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.
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