KARACHI (PPI) – All political parties contesting upcoming general elections should adopt a positive approach and play their due role for bringing new land and agrarian reforms on the eve of general elections in the country so as to alleviate poverty, inflation and unemployment, says National Peasants Coalition of Pakistan Network Coordinator Waheed Jamali here Sunday.

He said time has come that the PPP, PML-N, PML-F and other political parties should clarify their manifestoes about land and agriculture policies ahead of seeking votes from farming communities because of the fact that Pakistan has experienced three attempts of ineffective land reforms in 1959, 1972 and 1977, adding that redistributive land reforms did not achieve a great deal due to the political power wielded by the landowning classes.

“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. Abid Hassan Minto, Chairman of Workers Party Pakistan, along with other political leaders and social activists has moved the Supreme Court of Pakistan to challenge this verdict,” Jamali informed adding, “We now pray that the Supreme Court may review its decision about land reforms”.

He said, “The land and agrarian reforms will not only boost socio-economic development in the country but also further boost democracy in Pakistan. Agricultural land ownership in the country is highly unequal as around half of all rural households do not own any land, while top 5 per cent own over a 1/3rd of all cultivated area, which is injustice in the society, hence, there is need to distribute land among landless farmers,” he said.

He said all major political parties must clearly express their commitment about a land reforms programme in Pakistan, and they should include equitable, effective land and agrarian reforms in their election manifesto. “A comprehensive pro-poor land and agrarian reforms programme should be implemented in Pakistan with immediate effect which is based on equity, gender justice principles.” He said the parliament should be persuaded to pass legislation for protection of the peasants’ rights, allowing them to have their trade unions, ensuring social justice and providing old age benefits to them.

Jamali said as the general elections are coming and leaders of political parties have started visiting people for votes, so the farming community should also press them to bring agriculture and land reforms like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto did by bringing out Land Reforms Act 1977.

He said plan to expel fishermen community from twin islands of Karachi-Dingi and Bhandar-is a corporate pressure which would deprive local community of their motherlands and livelihood. It is also a bid to grab land of poor communities who are living there since long time.

It is the onslaught like corporate farming which is posing threat of food insecurity and inflation,” Jamali said. He said inequality of land ownership and landlessness is major cause of poverty and backwardness in the country, adding that the large farms have approached the maximum yield per acre with the available technology.

“We all realise that in Pakistan small farms (less than 25 acres) constitute 88 per cent of the total number of all agricultural farms, and 57 per cent of total farm area. The 54 per cent 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,” Jamali added.

He said tenants’ ability to invest in the land is further eroded by a nexus of social and economic dependence on the landlord, which deprives the tenant of much of his investable surplus. Thus the objective of raising yields in the small-farm sector is dependent on removal of the institutional constraints to growth arising out of the fact of tenancy.

He said, “We have invited the PPP, PML-N, PML-F and other political parties in Islamabad on 2 April 2013 under the banner of Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) and NPCP to discuss land and agriculture reforms issues and bring such reforms a fresh.

The NPCP leader said that the corporate agriculture farming policy of Government of Pakistan, announced during the Musharraf regime, is against the economic and food security interests of the nation. Corporate farming will displace farm labours and further marginalise them from their livelihoods.

“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.”

He said land reforms are required not only to accelerate agricultural growth, but to prevent the developing social crisis associated with the poverty and disempowerment of peasantry in Pakistan’s rural society.

He said that land and agrarian reforms are essentially vital for reducing poverty and empowering the poor peasantry. In Pakistan, the power of feudal has acted as a barrier to social and economic progress of the rural society. “Genuine land reform can help solve 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.”

He said, “The verdict of Shariat Bench of Supreme Court, during Gen Zialul Haq which declared land reforms against Islamic principles, should be reviewed and revoked through legislation. Landless women should be given priority in land re-distribution programme and all discriminatory legal and cultural practices be abandoned which prevent women’s property rights.

He said land ownership ceiling be fixed with an appropriate size on family basis. He said necessary legislation should be introduced in favour of land reforms as the land recovered from large land owners should be distributed among the peasant landless farmers, who have been working there with proper legal titles.

He said that 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.

“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, he said.”

Jamali said, “The agriculture land occupied by or allotted to military farms and government departments should be revoked and distributed among the landless peasants. Corporate farming 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.”

He said 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, he said.

“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,” Jamali concluded.