Lahore: A representative forum of farmers groups, movements, associations, human rights groups and civil society organizations was conducted at HRCP auditorium. In this forum, detail discussion around land reform agenda was held which also highlights poor and landless farmers and peasants’ point of view.
Forum also appreciates Supreme Court’s decisions to hear the petition after courts holidays which, was submitted by Saadat Hassan Manto years back. Forum was in an opinion that Supreme Court will hopefully give a fair verdict which will create a way for constitutional review in support of land reforms cause Possibility of a positive outcome of the petition.
Forum also stress it’s concern in spite of several land reforms efforts, even today poor farmers and landless peasants/tenants are still suffering with socioeconomic and political apathy. It cannot be improved without land reform. Keeping this in mind, it was decided to hold various forums in Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore, Multan and then in Islamabad.
In Lahore forum, Saadat Hassan Manto famous lawyer and human rights leader, J.M.Ghanjera from Toba Tek Singh, Irfan Mufti Deputy Director South Asia partnership, Pakistan, Buhra Banoo, Cheecha Watni, Gurmeet Singh Nankana Sahib, Ejaz Imran Pakistan Kissan Trust, Zakia and others held a detail discussion around land reform:
Saadat Hassan Manto showed his concern and said feudal mentality is deteriorating atmospheres especially poor farmers condition is pushing them below the poverty line. We are following colonial legacy which is basic hindrance for land reform and in result land grabbing is at its peak which is worsening poor and landless farmers and pushing them below the poverty line.
From Cheecha Watni, Bushra Banoo talked about apathy of poor women whose is working day and night in the field but still have not achieved farmers’ status. Gurmeet from Nankana sahib also talked about gender discrimination in practices especially related to agricultural practices and government aloofness. Agricultural expert, G.M. Ghanjera from Mianwali also restated Manto’s sahib’s point of view that till to date colonial legacy is ruining us and deteriorating poor and landless haries. Ejaz Imran, Pakistan Kissan Tehrik stated Land reform as a key to progress and democratic governance.
Irfan Mufti, Deputy Director in his speech said; lack of fixed land ceiling is affecting our agricultural productivity and worsening the condition of poor and land less farmers. So it is really important to initiate a movement which was initiated way back but with the time faded out. Lets us not wait only courts and legislators to work on it. We have to help poor farmers and land less haries to get attention in the legislature’s corridors.
After all the speakers Shabnam Rashid presented Lahore forum’s charter of demands which was mutually approved:
1. All major political parties must clearly express their commitment about a land reforms program in Pakistan and ensure necessary legislation to pave the path of lad reform;
2. The verdict of Shariat Bench of Supreme Court, during Gen. Ziaul Haq’s rule which declared land reforms against Islamic principles, should be revoked with immediate effect;
3. Land ownership ceiling be fixed at 50 acres irrigated and 100 acres non-irrigated land per family. The necessary legislation should be introduced in favour of land reforms;
4. Landless women should be given priority in land redistribution programmes and all discriminatory legal and cultural practices that prevent women’s right to own agricultural land;
5. Most importantly, women should be recognized as Farmers not just as farm workers;
6. The land recovered from large land owners should be redistributed among the peasant landless farmers, who have been working on that land with proper legal titles;
7. Bonded agriculture labour and keeping peasants in private jails should be declared a heinous crime which should be sentenced with maximum punishment to those who commit it;
8. The landless farmer families should be allotted at least 10 acres of agricultural land and the land titles should be in the name of both husband and wife;
9. The agriculture land occupied by or allotted to military farms and government or non government departments should be revoked and redistributed among the local landless peasants;
10. Corporate farming should not be promoted under the current policy framework. There must be a new legal framework which must ensure food security, abiding of labour laws and a ceiling limit over land. The land reserved for corporate farming should be distributed among landless farmers;
11. Utilization of groundwater and canal water should be brought under a regulatory law to ensure equity and protection of underground water resources;
12. Poor farmer’s children’s rights must be reviewed by the government and assured its enforcement;
13. Establish land Rights’ Commission to fix land ceilings, and to formulate necessary policies and then get it approved from parliament.