ISLAMABAD - Experts at a meeting have called for immediate land reforms in the country, which they said is the most efficient way of alleviating poverty and reducing inequality in the country. And, urged the need to revive public discourse to pursue land reforms in the country.

The experts were speaking at a civil society joint dialogue titled “Addressing the Inequality Gap: A Dialogue on Land Rights” organised at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday. 

Karamat Ali, Executive Director, PILER said that current feudal system was started by British to crush uprisings and strengthening their rule and that’s the reason no change has been witnessed even after the independence because we have same feudal elected in our parliament, added that the feudal elite has occupied the system to that extent that they are opposing every move which can undermine their power, including the land reforms. He also said even the fragmentation of land didn’t affect the social and political powers of feudal elite.

Dr Faisal Bari, Associate Professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences said that if introduced, land reforms can change overall economic structure, employment stream and bring much needed equality in the society. He said that feudal set up hinders the democratic process where feudal became intermediaries between the state and peasants and a patronage clientage system is formed.

Eminent economist, Dr Syed Akmal Hussain explained land reforms in a broader context of alleviating poverty and generating economic growth. He said that state is committing blatant injustice with poor in a situation where it can easily end poverty when there are solutions available such as land reforms. He explained that there is 2.6 million acre cultivatable agricultural land available with the government. He suggested that government must create 5 acre plots and distribute it among the landless people which would immediately empower 58 percent of 8,97,000 landless farmers. He also suggested to create a fund to purchase land for remaining 42 percent landless farmers.

He talked of supplementing the land distribution with establishing a social enterprise whose owners and shareholders would be poor peasants. He called it ‘Small Farmer Development Corporation’ with 3 billion equity fund which would be run by professionals and provide services such as development of land, laser leveling, technical advice and access to credit, quality seed and fertilizer. He estimated that through such initiative, Pakistan can earn foreign exchange worth $4 billion only through export of milk and milk products. He gave the example of India where Amol company, the world largest producer of milk and milk products, has been owned by 7 million poor peasants including women. 

Dr Pervez Tahir, former Chief Economist, Planning Commission of Pakistan said that rural poverty is at greater numbers as compared to urban poverty in Pakistan, and the primary reason is lack of asset and opportunities. He estimated that around 54.7 percent landless people in the country are living below the poverty line. He said that 51 percent area of country’s land is owned by less than 5 percent people adding that majority of 67 percent landowners own less than 5 percent of total area. He said that land concentration is higher in Punjab, followed by Sindh and then Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where only 1 percent people own 30 percent of cultivatable land in KP. 

He was of the view that money spent on poverty alleviation programmes must have been spent on purchasing lands and giving land rights to landless people, which would have more profound impact in reducing poverty in the country.

Speaking at the occasion, famous singer and social activist, Jawad Ahmad dreamed of world with globalised socialism where people have equity, freedom and equal opportunities. He said that Pakistani society is gripped by tribal, feudal and capitalist interests and bringing a change would require collective conscious effort by all citizens.