KARACHI - Political parties have been asked to support the land reforms and distribution of the state land among landless peasants in Pakistan and strive for provision of the social security benefits to all labourers especially the agriculture workers. The civil society activists demanded all the political parties to include land reforms in their election manifestoes. These demands came during a consultation with the political leaders on the land rights and social protection, organised by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at a local hotel here Sunday in city. Representatives of the major political parties who attended the meeting included Parliamentary Party leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Sindh Assembly Syed Sardar Ahmed, former Federal Minister and a representative of Pakistan Muslim League (F) Khair Mohammad Junejo, Lateef Mughal of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami (Sindh) Maulana Asadullah Bhutto, Feroz Khan of Pakistan Tahirk-e-Insaf, Abdul Khaliq Junejo of Jeay Sindh Mahaz, Ayoub Qureshi of National Party and Muzaffar Issani of Pakistan Muslim League (N). Representatives of the civil society who also attended the consultation included Chairman of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Mohammad Ali Shah, Zahid Farooq of Urban Resource Centre, Dr Kamal Jamro of Surhan Welfare Society, Faiz Siddiqui, Sharafat Ali of PILER and others. Civil society activists deplored that after the Federal Shariat Court’s decision on the land holdings, the process of the land reforms has come to a standstill in the country. The number of big landlords has increased instead of decreasing as envisaged in the last land reforms because taking benefit of Shariat Court’s decision many landlords have claimed back their lands. They pointed out that the concerned citizens have challenged the Federal Shariat Court’s decision in the Supreme Court of Pakistan as no political party was willing to do so and it is expected that the impediments for land reforms would soon be removed. The political leaders mainly supported the rights of the peasants including provision of the social security services to the peasants as well. They also supported the demand for amendments in Sindh Tenancy Act 1950, which provides rights to agriculture workers and share croppers. Speaking on the occasion, Latif Mughal of PPP (Sindh) said that the social security net should be expanded to peasants and home based workers. He said the floods in Sindh for the last three years have badly affected the economy of the province, which has also hit hard the poor masses. Syed Sardar Ahmed of MQM underlined the need to change the feudal mindset for the welfare of the workers. He said his party is supporting land reforms and it has already submitted a bill in the National Assembly. He said over 500,000 acres of the agriculture land in Katcha area has been illegally encroached upon by influential landlords, which can be distributed among landless peasants. He said the influential landlords are not paying income tax on their income from agriculture produce.The former Federal Minister and a leader of Pakistan Muslim League (Functional) Khair Mohammad Junejo supported the demand for the amendments in the Sindh Tenancy Act 1950 and said that many years ago the Sindh Assembly had formed a committee to propose amendments in the Act, but the draft bill has not been presented before the house. He dispelled the notion that landlords are not paying Income Tax and said there is an Income Tax on Agriculture Income in Sindh and all honest land owners are paying the tax. He said in cities the rich people are raising the rates of their properties and they do not pay any tax to the national exchequer, but no one is talking about their tax evasions. Ayoub Qureshi of National Party said that political parties have include land reforms in their agenda, but not a single political parties have challenged the controversial decision of Federal Shariat Court in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Maulana Asadullah Bhutto of Jamat-e-Islami said that his party supports the land reforms in Pakistan. He underlined the need for computerization of all the land records and demanded measures to stop water theft by the influential landlords.Earlier, speaking on the occasion, senior development economist Dr. Aly Ercelan pointed out that a lot of the stat- owned agriculture lands is available, which can be distributed among landless peasants at the rate of half an acre per peasant, which would ensure provision of sufficient food security to a worker’s family. He underlined the need for promotion of cooperatives for increased production of agriculture crops. He pointed out that poverty in Sindh has increased over the period and the National Nutrition Survey conducted by UNICEF and Aga Khan University in 2012 has given worrisome results about Sindh, where malnutrition is at a higher rate as compared to other province. Education and health situation in rural Sindh is also worrisome.  He said in the Agriculture Census 2010 indicates structural deprivation in rural Sindh. The survey tells that more than half a million farms are under 5 acres. Of these, half owned only some or no land at all; hence sharing meager harvests with landowners. A sizable number rely entirely on rainfall. Small farms of a measly one-third acres per capita or less represent above 50 percent of the farming population. Zeenia Shaukat of PILER gave a presentation on status of social security facilities in Pakistan. She pointed out that majority of the workers are not availing the social security facilities because of their informal status and non-registration with the concerned departments. She gave an example that despite the fact about 2,000 workers were working in Ali Enterprises, which caught fire in September and as a result about 300 were burnt alive, only about 150 workers were registered with the Employees Old Age Benefit Institution (EOBI). The rest of workers are not registered with any government organisation thus they were not eligible for the pension or other social protection benefits.