Consultative seminar: PPP, PNL-N, MQM, ANP, PTI pledge fresh land reforms Political party leaders support formation of small dams across country

KARACHI (PPI): As the poll campaign gets acceleration across the country, the leaders of major political parties – PPP, PML-N MQM, ANP, PTI and others converged at a consultative policy seminar and agreed to bring fresh land and agrarian reforms after coming to power in the next general elections.

The seminar on the theme of “Land and Agrarian Reforms on Political Agenda of Pakistan: Critical Review of Election Manifesto” was organized by Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) in collaboration with National Peasants Coalition of Pakistan, Oxfam Novib, Land Watch Asia, Drynet, International Land Coalition and ANGOC International in Islamabad in which heated speeches and debates were held on land and agrarian reforms.

CEO SCOPE Tanvir Arif said that main reason of poverty in Pakistan is terrorism which needs to be eradicated. He said that rise of Talibanisation is causing raise in crime rate in the country, particularly in Karachi. He said that the political parties should adopt positive attitude and bring land and agrarian reforms in the country so as to ensure food security and
significant development in Pakistan.

He said that majority of people in Pakistan live in rural areas and out of them 50 percent are peasants. He said water-logging and salinity is like a cancer which is badly affecting agriculture in the country , therefore, the government should take effective steps to bring an end to it. As we are proceeding to hold general elections, we have invited political leaders here to discuss and bring fresh land and agrarian reforms in Pakistan.

Tanvir said that some parties have incorporated land reforms in their manifestos while remaining ones should also include the same before elections. Abid Hassan Minto, Chief of Workers Party of Pakistan, said that economic instability in Pakistan is due to acts of
richest class, particularly feudal lords. He said that his party would continue its struggle to bring land reforms in Pakistan. The party is also determined to strive for elimination of feudal system from the country. “We have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, seeking review of Shariat Bench decision that declared land reforms against Shariat law. He
said that the decision in this case is likely in April.

Minto said that democracy would never flourish in Pakistan till feudal system exists.
Haji Mohammad Adeel, ANP Senator, said his party is determined to bring land and agriculture reforms in the country, however, political will is mandatory in this regard. He said that maximum land with one family should be 25 canal and 50 rain-irrigated acres.

He said: “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been deprived of industrial growth because it faces load shedding up to 18 hours. “Our province creates 5000 to 6000 mega watts of power but in return, it is being given torments of load shedding that has badly affected socio-economic growth. Gas load shedding is also hitting hard the people of the region.”

PTI leader Shahid Zia said that feudal system could not bring any positive change in the country. He stressed the need to bring land and agrarian reforms in the country so as to provide relief to farmers community which has always been deprived of their rights. He said that landlords are taking major benefits from subsidies being provided by the government, while small farmers still remain affected in this regard.

He said that PTI would bring land and agrarian reforms if comes to power in next general elections, and it would computerize whole land record of the land. He said that literacy rate in rural areas is very low and no steps have been taken to create jobs in rural areas that is why people of rural areas are coming to cities for employment. He called for steps to bring rural industrialization.

The PTI leader said that small farmers have no access to sell their agriculture products in the markets, which is matter of great concern. He said that steps should be taken to avert floods in the future. PML-N leader Siddiqul Farooq vowed to bring land reforms if his party comes to power. He said that we would provide small loans to farmers, particularly women. He recalled that PML-N had distributed lands among deserving farmers in 1997. He said that we should give agriculture as the status of industry.

MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizivi said that Muttahida is sole party in the country that had brought a bill on land reforms in the parliament. Rizvi said that it was irony that no one talked on the bill. He said that 70 percent landlords in assemblies would not allow land reforms. He said that feudal system should be eliminated from the country for good of farmers and agriculture development.

He said that 80 percent land in Pakistan is not the real property of landlords and it could be proved by verifying the record. He said that constitution does not give right to own land in Pakistan. However, the land could be given on lease for 90 years. He said that we want computerization of land record. The MQM want small loans should be provided to farmers so that they could grow their crops with peace. He stressed the need to introduce cooperative farming.

He said that a family could pass its life with respect if it has 36 acres of canal and 54 acres of rain-irrigated land.

PPP leader Taj Haider said that water logging and salinity is badly affecting agriculture land and the last PPP government took steps in this regard. He said that a vast area of the land is hit by water-logging and salinity which need to be eradicated. He said that we could raise crop production by eliminating water-logging and salinity. He said that eight small dams are being built on the right bank of Indus River and on the left side of Indus River, we should reactivate low lying areas to boost agriculture productions.

He said that agriculture sector has become self-reliant during the last five years. He said that 2.2 million acres of land had been submerged by sea in Badin and Thatta districts. Through Zulfikarabad project, we have planned to recover a huge area of the land, Taj Haider concluded.

Najama Sadiq, a noted journalist, opposed formation of small dams in Pakistan, as saying the US is breaking up its all small dams. She said that heavy machinery use in land is harmful for the soil. Najma said that bringing land reforms is a social will but not the political one.

Noted human rights activist Farzana Bari said that there is no clear concept about land reforms in Pakistan as it is still not known that how much land is possessed by political leaders. She called for joint efforts to ensure land reforms in the country. Minhaz Paracha of Oxfam Novib said that there are several Acts and Ordinances in the existence but no one is supporting land reforms in real manner. She stressed the need to bring fresh land reforms in Pakistan.

Zulfikar Halepoto, a land reform policy expert, called for immediate land and agrarian reforms in the country. He said that political parties should include land reforms in their manifestos and bring them after coming to power.
The program arrangements were supervised by SCOPE program manager Mahjabeen Khan and NPCP Network Coordinator Waheed Jamali. The program was also attended by civil society organizations.