to revive land reforms in Pakistan
By YesPakistan.com Staff
In the arena of human development
in Pakistan, land reforms play an important role in reducing poverty and empowering
the poor, especially farmers and the agricultural class.
In countries like Pakistan,
the power of the class that owns land is really a monopoly that has served as
a barrier to social and economic progress for the poor. Through land reforms,
landlords' far-reaching power on the local political and economic power is reduced
and more power can be given to the poorer workers on the land.
An additional benefit of
land reforms is that it will help to solve the problems caused by the fact that
farmers often use relatively inefficient capital-intensive techniques due to
distorted factor market prices and that small farmers do not have access to
the liberal credit subsidies on imported machinery and capital equipment.
Success through land reforms
has been hailed in East Asia, where they helped create widespread support in
rural areas for economic reform by presenting an opportunity for the benefits
of future economic growth to be distributed among all sectors of society.
The key lesson to be learnt
from the East Asian experience is how the successful implementation of land
reforms had much to do with support the countries' governments gave farmers.
In order for reforms to be successful, governments must help small farmers by
providing ready access to extension services and agricultural infrastructure,
such as irrigation water and roads.
In Pakistan and South Asia
in general, small farmers receive little support in the form of credits, agricultural
extension services, appropriate output prices, and easier marketing opportunities.
It is clearly time that the Pakistani government stepped in to institute significant
land reforms and extend support to small farmers.
However, these reforms must
take into account the country's past failures, since the country has not done
too well with its program of institutional reforms. It has already made two
failed attempts at implementing such changes.
The first was in 1959, when
land reforms fixed the ceiling for private ownership of land at 500 acres irrigated
and 1,000 acres unirrigated. However, this did little to better distribute the
lands in the hands of the country's prosperous rural elite. It was more of a
cosmetic exercise than a significant social change.
One of the problems was
that ceilings were fixed in terms of individuals rather than families. The reforms
included generous productivity exemptions as well as separate provisions for
orchards. Instead of portioning out lands, some landlords actually did rather
well from the exercise, receiving generous compensation for surrendering uncultivated
land. Barely 35 percent of the excess land declared by landowners was actually
obtained by the government, with redistribution benefiting only eight percent
of subsistence farmers.
A second attempt at land
reforms was made by President Zulifikar Ali Bhutto in 1972. This time, the ownership
ceiling was reduced to 150 acres of irrigated and 300 acres of unirrigated land.
However, although these reforms looked good on paper, the impact was totally
diluted when they were actually implemented. Less than 0.9 million acres of
land was acquired for redistribution, which was about one-third of the land
resumed under the 1959 land reforms. Once again, the ceilings were in terms
of individuals rather than families. That meant a number of large landowners
have managed to keep their holdings within an extended joint family framework
and have given up only some marginal, not very productive, swampy lands.
In both of the above-mentioned
cases, what went wrong was not the intention, but the implementation of land
reforms. They had to be implemented by the ruling class which was also the class
that was going to be negatively affected by them. Of course, there was no way
these could be implemented realistically speaking because of this.
And so land reform remains
a great possibility in Pakistan, but not a reality. According to the Federal
Land Commission, only 1.8 million hectares (or less than eight percent of the
country's cultivated area) have been resumed so far. Of these , 1.4 million
hectares have been distributed to 288,000 beneficiaries.
Today in Pakistan, land
ownership still remains highly concentrated. More than half of the country's
total farm land is in farms of fifty acres or more.
Nonetheless, although meaningful
land reforms in Pakistan may be difficult to implement, especially given the
current feudal structure of power in the country, it is still necessary to work
towards reforms that will work. The key is solving the issue of how to implement
reforms by a body other than the landowning classes which sees these changes
as detrimental to them and has and will try to circumvent the process.
Date/Time Last Modified: 6/18/2002 8:06:27 AM
aghashshzeb: 9/14/2006 4:54:02 AM
i dont know why every one is blaming the landlords for all the economic problenm and the poority in the country our country is now becoming a industrial hub also, people are owning foctories of milions what about them, think about ur self what if 2morow the gov comes and takes away your home from u and the reason it gives is that there are many people in the country that dont have a home so we are taking one family out the home and keeping 3 in its place what willl pe ur reaction and will u agree with it and for ur kind information because of the shortage of yhe water it hard for a farmer to cultivate his land so agin u will give a farmer a lot of land to cultivate or what
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