KARACHI: 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, says Waheed Jamali, Executive Director, Society for Environmental Actions, Reconstruction and Humanitarian response (SEARCH) Pakistan while talking to PPI on Saturday.
He said that political parties should come forward with concrete measures and provide relief to farming community by introducing farmers friendly policies. He said Pakistan inherited feudal system from British Raja and that is why 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. “50.8 % of rural households are landless while the poverty amongst rural landless people is high. The power of landowners is really a monopoly that has served as a barrier to social and economic progress for poor. Land reforms are required prevent the developing social crisis associated with the poverty,” he said.
Jamali said Pakistan has experienced three attempts of ineffective land reforms in 1959, 1972 and 1977. The redistributive land reforms did not achieve a great deal due to the political power wielded by the landowning classes, he added.
He said in 1977, General Ziaul 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. He said Abid Hassan Minto, Chairman of Workers Party Pakistan, along with other political leaders and social activists has moved Supreme Court of Pakistan to challenge this verdict.
He said agriculture is the mainstay of the Pakistan economy, accounting for 25% of GDP, 60 percent of export earnings and 48 percent of employment. “Poverty and food security issues are closely linked to land and that was why the International Land Coalition was formed. Food and fuel prices are rising world-wide and they have become a global issue, causing agriculture crisis. Climate change is also affecting agriculture sector.
He said that some 20.9 million hectares of land (26% of the country) is cultivated, of which 76% is irrigated by a vast network of canals, dams and barrages of Indus River System.
Jamali said that several organisations are working for brining agrarian reforms, but work in this regard is still not effective, hence, there is dire need to work with concrete measures to raise land reforms issue at government level.
He said the media is our big stakeholder, but its coverage on land reforms has been low. Hence there is also need to expand coverage on land reforms, food security and other farmers’ issues.