Participants of a forum on Monday underlined the need for equal distribution of land rather than land reforms and ensuring food sovereignty, rather food security in the country.
They pointed out that due to corporatisation of farming and giving land to foreigners, not only food security, but due food sovereignty is largely at the stake.
The national consultation on land reforms was organised by Pakistan Mazdoor Tehrik (PKMT) and Roots for Equity.
The participants expressed concern that on one hand, the masses of this country are facing issues like food insecurity and malnutrition, and on the other, government gives irrigated lands to foreigners.
Speakers pinpointed that the strong nexus of the military-bureaucracy-feudal troika is the key impediment in the way of land reforms. It was underlined that without breaking the influence of this troika, not only land reforms, but even real democracy could not come as the feudals have always remained instrumental for the establishment. It was also highlighted that lands are given to generals, bureaucrats, cricketers and actors, but not to peasants, who are the real owners.
PKMT National Coordinator Ali Akber felt food sovereignty instead of food security should be a basic pillar of the agriculture development framework.
The PKMT member pointed out that 2013 is an election year and it is important that political parties ensure that land reforms be made a key part of their manifestoes.
Speaking on the occasion, Roots for Equity Executive Director Dr Azra Talat said that 50 per cent of total irrigated land is owned by only four per cent of landlords, which causes frustration and underuse of the land.
She said there is a need for a new line of action to launch an effective peasant movement to stop the corporate land grab strategy and for equal distribution of land.
She felt it has become a consensus approach that the equal distribution of land has become more important that land reforms.
She pointed that Sindh Agriculture minister has himself given 3,200 acres of land to foreigners for corporate farming and the entire population on the area has reportedly been displaced. “Our lands are given to foreigners, leaving our own people homeless and jobless,” she added.
Ali Hassan Chandio, a nationalist from Sindh, said land reforms are not possible in Pakistan in the presence of the troika. He said that there is a need for a strong movement against this troika to force land reforms and land redistribution.
He said that the new trend of corporation farming has displaced many peasants and crops were sent abroad, which is dangerous as far as food security is concerned. “Land should be redistributed among farmers and peasants… corporate farming is the new face of feudalism”, he maintained.
Pakistan Business Review Chief Editor Dr Shahida Wazarat also advocated land reforms. “There will be adverse affects on food security if corporate farming continues in future,” she opined.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.