KARACHI: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s land reforms were cosmetic and land ownership remained intact even after this reform, claimed MPA Mehtab Akbar Rashdi.
She was speaking at a meeting organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) for the civil society, media and parliamentarians to discuss the issues of labour at a local hotel on Tuesday.
“Pakistan was made for the protection of landlords,” she said. “They claimed land here by telling the government that they have left so and so lands in India.”
She urged Piler to conduct a study on specific issues so that parliamentarians can have a focused approach and help the people. “A bill will not ensure land reforms,” she said. “Our ancestors worked on many movements but people will have to mobilise themselves [for concrete results]. We pass an average of four to five bills in the assembly every day. But if there is no implementation, then there is no use of these laws.”
According to her, implementation is missing because ‘our intentions are not clear enough’. She suggested that laws should be immaculate so that no one can breach them. “We keep a window open in every law so that corruption can pass through it,” she said. “Such laws are not beneficial.”
Talking about land reforms, a member of the audience raised a question that when industrialists can run as many industries as they like, why landowners are the only ones who are questioned by everyone for their land holdings.
To this, Zinnia Shaukat from Piler suggested that this gap could be bridged through tax reforms for industrialists so that land owners do not feel that they are being singled out.
Piler executive director Karamat Ali urged the MPAs to focus on the problems of rural workers, their residential land rights and the problem of minimum wage. Citing the example of Britain’s minimum wage law, he said that we should follow suit and determine an hourly, daily and monthly wage for our workers in accordance with the minimum budget needed for a person to fulfil basic necessities.
“People have been oppressed so much in this country that when you tell someone that something is their right, they can’t believe it,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2015.