KARACHI: This is with reference to articles by Najma Sadeque and Syed Mohammad Ali, “What will peasants get in exchange for their vote?” and “Agrarian reforms — rhetoric and reality”, respectively (April 15). Both writers have discussed a conference on land reforms organised in Islamabad by SCOPE. Unfortunately, both of them create the false perception that the PPP is opposed to land reforms. I represented the PPP in that conference and submitted that a “civilian martial law administrator, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as many of his opponents choose to call him, had promulgated land reforms in 1972 as a Martial Law order. Later, in 1977, a parliament of waderas, with Mr Bhutto as the Leader of the House had enacted the land reforms act, bringing down the ceiling of land holdings from 150 acres to 100 acres.
I had also submitted that a Shariat court, constituted by a person who had origins in the lower-middle class, had declared these reforms “Un-Islamic”. Mr Abid Hasan Minto, who has filed a review petition against this judgment, was also present at the conference and gave a detailed background of the land reforms and the legal grounds for his review petition.
The Land Reforms Act of 1974 will be automatically revived if the Supreme Court decides to uphold Mr Minto’s review petition. If it decides otherwise and says that land reforms are against Islam, then no parliament or provincial assembly can pass a law which is “Un-Islamic”. I had submitted that instead of indulging in the delightful game of maligning the PPP, which had already enacted the reforms, everyone who is serious on the issue should ask the Court to decide the matter without unnecessary delay.
While this important issue is pending before the Court, the PPP has taken dynamic initiatives to better the lot of the peasants. Enhanced support prices, purchase of crops by the government, improved water distribution, relief and rehabilitation of the flood affectees, free distribution of seeds and fertilisers in flood affected areas, and land with support packages to Harianis have all contributed towards increasing the purchasing power of the peasantry and turning Pakistan from an importer of wheat and sugar to a large exporter of these commodities. The funds distributed under the Benazir Income Support Programme have also largely gone to the rural areas and created a safety net for the poor.
General Secretary, PPP Sindh
Source: Express Tribune