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Over 77m without enough food




  •  Expert says UAE had purchased 324,000 hectares of farmland in Punjab and Sindh in 2008, which is tantamount to land grabbing

    KARACHI: Pakistan is heading towards food insecurity due to ineffective agriculture policies and land reforms, as the number of food insecure people has risen over 77 million in the country.

    “Balochistan has large number of food insecure people followed by FATA, KP; Tharparkar, Thatta & Badin (Sindh) and Rajanpur (Punjab),” said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (Scope) Tanvir Arif in an interview to PPI here on Sunday

    He said that food insecurity causes malnutrition among people, particularly children, which decreases their body weight and weaken them. It also causes health problems among people and reduces their capabilities. Healthy society is mandatory for socio-economic development, he observed.

    He said that cooperative agriculture farming should be boosted in the country while agriculture engineers should be made managers in this regard. He said that upcoming democratic government should pay heed towards agriculture sector which was backbone of the country’s economy and major source of country food security. Previous government left dismal picture of agriculture sector during the last five years. 

    Tanvir said agriculture contributes 25 percent to GDP, 60 percent of export earnings and 48 percent of employment. There is need to bring agrarian reforms in the country by stopping corporate farming and ending feudal system. “Feudal system and corporate farming are posing threat to food security in Pakistan, hence both needs to be stamped out,” he asserted.

    He said, “Corporate agriculture farming policy is against the economic and food security interests of the nation. It will displace farm labours and further marginalise them from their livelihoods. Corporate farming is not just land grabbing, but it is water grabbing in the form of agricultural production to be exported. The corporate farming is about to export virtual water which is basis of our food security.” 

    He said the UAE had purchased 324,000 hectares of farmland in Punjab and Sindh in June 2008. Investors from Abu Dhabi bought about 16,000 hectares 
    of farmland in Balochistan. Emirates Investment Group and Abraaj Capital are also investing directly in corporate farming. Such kind of purchasing is a land grabbing which will deprive local people of land and cause food insecurity.”

    He said Pakistan inherited feudal system from British Raja. “Land distribution in Pakistan is highly unequal as 5 percent of large landholders possess 64 percent of total farm land and 65 percent small farmers hold 15 percent of land.” 

    Tanvir said that Pakistan had witnessed three land reforms which proved ineffective due to lack of political will, fuedalisam and some other factors. He elaborated that General Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto brought land reforms in the country which proved useless. “During Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s regime in 1972, only 520,000 hectares of land had been surrendered, while 285,000 hectares redistributed among 71,000 farmers. In 1977, ceilings on private ownership of farmland were further reduced to 4 hectares of irrigated land and 8 hectares of non-irrigated land. Gen Ziaul Haq and governments in 1980s and 1990s did little to implement land reforms because they were supported by the landed aristocracy.”

    “Unfortunately in 1977, General ZiaUl Haq toppled the civil government and during his era a Shariat bench of Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld an appeal to declare land reforms against the law of Shariat. Abid Hassan Minto, Chairman of Workers Party Pakistan, along with other political leaders and social activists, has moved to Supreme Court of Pakistan to challenge this verdict,” he said.

    Tanvir said that land and agrarian reforms were essentially vital for reducing poverty and empowering the poor peasantry. In Pakistan, the power of feudal has acted as a barrier to social and economic progress of the rural society. “Genuine land reform can help solve the problems caused by the fact that farmers often use relatively inefficient capital-intensive techniques due to distorted market prices and that small farmers do not have access to the liberal credit subsidies on imported machinery and capital equipment.”

    He said all major political parties must clearly express their commitment about land reforms programme in Pakistan. Tanvir said all political parties should include equitable, effective land and agrarian reforms in their election manifesto. 

    A comprehensive pro-poor land and agrarian reforms programme should be implemented in Pakistan with immediate effect based on equity, gender justice principles. The verdict of Shariat Bench of Supreme Court during Gen Zialul Haq regime, which declared land reforms against Islamic principles, should be reviewed and revoked through legislation,” Tanvir concluded. ppi

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