KARACHI - Civil society representatives, academia and researchers Monday observed that despite tall claims not a single mainstream political party had mentioned the land reforms issue in their party manifesto, as electoral process had been started.

Addressing a seminar on ‘Reasserting the Land Rights’, organised by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum at a local hotel, the speakers said despite the fact that almost all the political parties at different occasions have made commitments, showing their support to introduce new land reforms but didn’t mention this issue in their manifestos.

These political parties’ leaders showed this ‘will’ because land reforms introduced earlier have created many questions of its transparency and nepotism, depriving the deserving people of their right to get piece of land.

During the recent discussions it was observed that poor peasants are the most vulnerable to face impacts of changing weather pattern and weak governance system. Pro-people debate, specially related to the visible threats to lives and livelihoods of these people have suggestions, which need to be discussed further to make a point.

Aly Ercelan, a senior research fellow of Pakistan Institute of Labour Educationand Research (Piler) chaired the seminar while renowned writer Zulfiqar Halepoto, Shahnaz Sheedi of SAP Pakistan, Mustafa Baloch of Stengthening Participatory Organisation, PFF Vice Chairman Mustafa Meerani, Comrade Jam Saqi, Punhal Sario, Waheed Jamali of Safwco, Zahida Detho of Sindh Rural Partners Organisation, Prof M Ismail Kumbhar of Agriculture University Tando Jam, Jamil Junejo and Meer Hasan Mari spoke on the occasion.

Ali Ercelan said the water issue should be linked to land because the natural resources were shrinking fast and in future may cause threat to live and livelihoods of rural population.

“If we see the floods, those people have resources can survive but the loss poor face is horrible, because they do not have resources,” he said.

He said democracy was a continues process. Zulfiqarabad and the twin islands were being occupied by certain investors. This will destroy the source of income to the people especially those are living there through generations. It could be major political issue, he urged upon the audience.

He gave examples saying China, Brazil and India have bought land from Africa because these countries need food. They have bought land there for cultivation to produce food there. These countries own land they have fixed for industrialization. They prefer to install industries in their countries.  

Zulfiqar Halepoto said many party leaders do not know the meaning of organic farming and other issues related to cultivation and the status of peasants.

“You should know that this is the understanding level of central leadership of political parties. We should guess how we can expect that they will make legislation when they are elected to power,” he said. He clarified that Land reforms is not urban agenda, this needs to understand.

He said the reason of backwardness in Sindh was feudalism. “Sindh will never take off if the feudal system exists intact. So there is a need that civil society should make the debate broader. This is the part of Neocolonial agenda hence we should expand the idea to understand the issues. The population is increasing in the world. Water resources are shrinking. Land is being grabbed and controlled by corporate sector,” he said.

He advised to be engaged relationship to political parties to sensitize them about the issues. The land here is being controlled by the international investor’s interests.

Ishaq Soomro of Piler, shared experiences, specifically the plight of farmer families after the three year consecutive floods, destruction and displacement. He said the people have been living at lands through generations they should have right to live and cultivate the land.

Waheed Jamali of Safwco said the land rights issue is serious and it has been coming through generations. The issue of land is linked to 70 percent rural population, who depend on the land for cultivation and livelihoods and they consider the piece of land as their traditional culture.

Mustafa Baloch of SPO said landlords are unable to understand the issues of farmers. Entire resources are under control of feudal lords, who not only are village chieftains but represent the farmers at the assemblies. He said there is need of stronger social movement to change the entire system.

Prof Ismail Kumbhar said the PPP-led government had awarded lands, which are saline mostly close to coastal areas and beneficiaries have nothing to do that because it is no more fertile.

He said there is no concept of subsidy and in result when cost of products increased how the farmers can afford to cultivate land to have available wheat for their own consumption. Wheat cultivation cost reaches cost Rs40,000 per acre. Presently, he said the price of wheat per mound is Rs1200.

He said farmers do not depend only on cultivation but they should have livestock, poultry farming, hence integrated farming should be introduced.  

Apart from this, he said there is no crop insurance policies and ensure its implementation. Farmers’ advisory committees should be formed so they may get update knowledge.

They pointed out that there are many cases of forgery in revenue record and the exact figure of state land is inaccessible. This might be the main problem for campaigners to design recommendations that how these poor and marginalised people, depending on agriculture can be benefitted with this initiative. This initiative may help them live a safe life.