The Chief Justice of Pakistan has remarked that implementing the best agricultural system would allow the country to emerge on the world stage as a strong economy. He made this remark on Thursday while heading a nine-member Supreme Court larger bench hearing the land reforms case.  If, as is being pleaded, the land reforms are struck down, it would mean all the land resumed by the state as a result of the land reforms of 1959, 1973 and 1977, would go back to their original owners. It would also involve the Supreme Court striking down a final decision of the Shariat Appellate Bench. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was justified in saying that the decision of the Supreme Court would be in line with the interests of the government and the people and would not go into unnecessary matters. However, while land must be used to grow crops, and while it is true that Pakistan needs to use all its land if it wishes to become an economic power, especially as the path of industrialization has not yet had a chance to prove fruitful. Indeed, Pakistan’s only large industry, textiles, is based on its agriculture.

However, to use the land that has been resumed, water is needed. The Supreme Court has not mentioned how that is to be provided. The most obvious solution is the building of the Kalabagh Dam, which is a water storage in addition to being a hydroelectric dam. While in this era of loadshedding, there is more attention being paid to the around 4,000MW of hydels which it would bring online, there should also be attention paid to its huge potential as a water storage. As it was one of the dams, along with Tarbela and Mangla, which was supposed to be built in lieu of the rivers given away to India under the Indus Waters Treaty, its storage potential was the first consideration in its design. However, apart from being a substitute, it has become an even more important project for the country as the source of irrigation for future agricultural expansion.

The Supreme Court has given notice to the provincial advocates general, but also to amicus curiae, but has not given a date for the next hearing. If the Supreme Court does indeed decide against the Shariat Appellate Bench decision, other decisions would be appealed against. That might well include decisions which instructed the carrying out of legislation. This will be quite legal, and healthy. The Supreme Court, in a democracy such as ours, is the final authority on legal issues. It would be surprising if the Shariah court was not subservient to it.