The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Tuesday submitted a land reforms bill in the National Assembly secretariat proposing limits on land holdings.
The bill proposes that each family should be allowed to own a maximum of 30 acres irrigated or 54 acres arid (barani) land. The bill does not apply to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The MQM says its draft legislation, titled “The Redistributive Land Reforms Bill, 2010,” is aimed at the eradication of hereditary ownership of agricultural land and its redistribution among tillers.
The proposed bill says that land is a free bounty of nature and that the state has been recognised as its owner, both by the Muslim and Hindu jurists.
The bill proposes that from the commencement of this act, all land within the territorial limits of provinces, whether owned or leased or occupied or tenanted or encumbered or mortgaged with or without possession by any person, be resumed in the name of the provincial government. However, it says that land that falls within the limits of ‘economic holding’, as well as that held by registered charitable trusts and waqfs, shall be exempt from redistribution.
Owners of land that is expropriated by the government shall be paid compensation at such rates per acre as may be determined by the commission, the bill says.
Under the proposed redistribution of land, each landless family of the cultivator or tenant or small land owner shall be granted land out of the land that has been seized. Priority would be given to landless cultivators followed by landless tenants and small landowners.
Families that are granted land or have retained it may form cooperative farming societies. However, cooperative farming society may be formed by not more than three families.
According to the bill, the replacement of the ancient customary law of temporary or life-time occupancy by hereditary ownership with the introduction of zamindari, ryotwari and jagirdari systems by the British colonial government created socio-political disequilibrium in society.
It also says that previous land reforms introduced in 1959, 1972 and 1977 failed to reduce the size of large estates and did not benefit more than eight per cent haris and muzaareen.
The bill said that colonisation through barrages by granting the most fertile and large tracts of land to influential absentee zamindars and jagirdars at a throwaway price created a new class of overlords who earned windfall profits through the sweat and labour of those working on their land.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2010.