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Parliament only forum to legislate for viable land reforms in Pakistan: Dr Farooq

Islamabad, November 08, 2012 (PPI-OT): Political leaders, socio-economic, environment, agriculture and land reforms experts have said that introducing effective and viable land reforms in Pakistan are possible only if these are assigned top priority in political agendas of different political parties of the country.

Addressing the national seminar ‘Where are Land Reforms on Political Agenda in Pakistan?’ held here on Thursday, they strongly supported the argument that effective land reforms are critical for sustainable food security, increased farm productivity, poverty alleviation and overall socio-economic uplift of the country.

The seminar was organized by the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) in collaboration with Oxfam International, Land Watch Asia, International Land Coalition and National Peasants Coalition of Pakistan-Pakistan Kisan Sangat (NPCP-PKS).

Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistan Farooq Sattar and MNA-Muttahida Qaumi Movement said that it is must for the land reforms to succeed, and that all major political parties clearly express their commitment to the land reforms and these parties incorporate equitable, effective land and agrarian reforms in their respective election manifestos. He said Parliament is a platform, where from legislation for land reforms can be initiated.

Farooq Sattar urged civil society members including political and media to play their part in pushing forward with the land reforms, which is actually integral part of agricultural reforms. He said that after extremism and terrorism, the second biggest threat to our country is economic degradation. It is still not a true democracy in the country where there is no representation of under privileged people in policy making.

Farooq Sattar pressed on need to loop in big landlords, feudal, big transporters and industrialists into tax net. “Although share of corporate, industrial sector in overall tax pool is more than 80 percent, while that of agriculture is not more than one percent despite the fact that farm sector accounts for 25 percent share in the national gross domestic production (GDP),” Mr. Sattar told the participants.

Advisor to Governor of Punjab, Abdullah Malik, said that agriculture sector is backbone of country’s industrial sector, as it provides raw material for it. However, land reforms cannot be avoided or blocked, for these are must for sustainability of industrial sector’s uplift.

He said that although land reforms are a big challenge as far as bringing it at top priority of political agenda of different political parties.

Earlier, “Land reforms are key to agrarian reforms without which ensuring food security is not possible,” said Tanveer Arif a noted land reforms specialist and chief executive of the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE).

Mr. Arif observed that absence of land reforms are major cause of deepening rural poverty, hunger, mal-nutrition, health diseases burgeoning unemployment, unsustainable use of agrarian land, increasing waterlogging and salinity of the farm lands in Pakistan.

Dr. Shahid Zia of Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaaf said that those people who are the policy makers in the parliaments are also the beneficiaries of these policies who safeguard their own rights instead of keeping in mind the benefit of farmers on a larger scale.

Climate change and land grabbing is a big challenge for the farmers. Another problem that Pakistan is facing nowadays is to lease off a piece of land to foreign land. We strongly condemn this practice and stress that Pakistan is not for sale. Each and very piece of land is Pakistan’s property and it is their right on the land.

He said that we have already started interacting with the farmers and are of the view that there should be no tax applicable to small farmers. Subsidies are never targeted only agricultural giants are benefitting from the subsidies. Even the universities are doing research on technology that is very expensive and cannot be utilized by poor small farmers.

Senator Raza Mohammad Raza Pakhtunkhwa milli Awami party said that the fuedals are still ridiculing the stature of helpless women and ‘harees.’

Senator Taj Haider PPP while speaking on the occasion said that the civil society has highlighted this issue and political parties are taken on board to tackle the issue. We need to focus on land reforms by rising above our difference, we have done political compromises because we have to check the undemocratic forces, now we are doing compromises again to conduct elections but we have not shifted from our policies.

We are handling the situation and with the collaboration of private sector but now we want to collaborate with the communities. Farm to market route are established, we are giving them infrastructure so that their products easily get access to the market. State-community partnership is being launched now.

Farooq Sattar has also presented the bill on land reforms but the fate of such bills is pending. But prolonging these bills are strengthening the corrupt and big agricultural giants. The land is the property of farmers, and strengthening farmers would contribute to the empowerment, economic stability of the country. We are determined to give free fertilizer and seeds to ‘watan card’ holders and Benazir income support program beneficiaries.

“We should be vocal enough to identify the problems, we are about to establish co-operatives in rural areas so that we can facilitate them, provide credit and impart scientific knowledge to farmers,” he said.

Among others, who attended the seminar included Advisors to National Peasants Coalition of Pakistan (NPCP) Zulifiqar Halepoto, Najma Sadique, senior politician and lawyer Abid Hassan Minto and Coordinator SCOPE and environmentalist Mahjabeen Khan.

The programme was moderated by Muhammad Tehsin, of the South Aisa Programme.

For more information, Contact:
Muhammad Saleem
Deputy Director
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, ISLAMABAD
Ph: 051-9245565
E-mail: moccpakistan@hotmail.com
Web: http://www.mocc.gov.pk/

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