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Land and Agrarian Reforms

When there is a wide spread consensus and unanimous support of all the major political and non political stake holders of the country the process of reforms can be accomplished with ease. In countries where the reform process is comprehended, preferred and supported widely, not only by the civil society and intellectuals but also by the general public at large then the success is readily achievable.  But when the situation is vice versa and reform process is applauded by a small faction or the elite group of society, so it lacks harmony and the process is neither accepted nor guarantee success.

Traditionally the idea of land reforms refers to breaking up of a big land in to smaller units so that a number of cultivators can be the owners of their land in increase welfare and efficiency. In Pakistan the issue of land reforms is critical; it has been argued that there is a vast unequal distribution of land in the rural parts of Pakistan that made up to 60% of the whole land. The landlord culture in Pakistan has made farmers more poor and slaves of Jageerdaars and wadeeras( local language words for big land lords). Pakistan from beginning has had a number of weighty landholding families who are not fond of paying any utility bills and taxes.

Their dominance on national politics can still be seen as two big political parties of Pakistan are headed by land lords and industrialist.  It is argued that the problem of feudalism is amongst the obstacles in national building and progress. Some believe that the income inequality and vast regional disparities are the products of feudalism.  Soon after independence the ruling Muslim League formed an agriculture reform committee headed by Mumtaz Doltana then in January 1959, soon after imposing the first martial law, Ayub Khan set up a land reform commission then on March 1, 1972, Martial Law Regulation No. 115 often called Land Reforms Regulation 1972 was imposed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto then Land Reforms Ordinance, 1977(Ordinance II of 1977) on January 5, 1977 has been promulgated but all those activities had gone in vein due to the extremely powerful agricultural elite was on helm of affairs in politics.

A part of the fact that big landlords in Punjab who had always supported the Unionist party switched over to Muslim League, similarly the landlords in Sindh supported the Pakistan movement as well. Perhaps the reason for this was the fear they had from the socialist policies of Congress. Such fears were quite justified as feudalism was indeed abolished in India while it still flourishes in Pakistan. Akmal Hussain in his paper Pakistan Land Reforms Reconsidered states that the distribution of land ownership in Pakistan is much more unequal than the distribution of operational holdings. Our estimates based on the 1972 Census of Agriculture show that as much as 30 per cent of total farm area in Pakistan was owned by landowners in the size class 150 acres or more; by contrast the percentage of farm area operated by farmers in this size class was only 9.2 per cent.

Land reforms play an important role in reducing poverty and empowering the farmers. Honest land reform can help resolve the problems caused by the fact that farmers often use relatively inefficient capital-intensive techniques due to distorted market prices and that small farmers do not have access to the liberal credit subsidies on imported machinery and capital equipment. Corporate farming should not be promoted. 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 Kacho, Kaachho, Kohistan, Kach, Bailpat, Thar, Thal and elsewhere in the country must be re-surveyed and distributed among the landless peasants and agriculture workers families.

Equitable distribution at the tail-end is imperative. It is necessary that all disputed irrigation projects including Kalabagh dam are given up and water requirements of Indus Delta fully met. 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. In addition to the above, it is recommended that government should devise water management system to boost up the agricultural yield and basic education with regards to agriculture should be imparted to farmers 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.

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