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MQM comes up with land reforms bill

farooqsattar lanreform onlineISLAMABAD: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement has submitted to the National Assembly Secretariat a land reforms bill seeking distribution of large landholdings among small and landless farmers in order to end feudalism and hereditary politics in the country.

“We have submitted this bill in consonance with the resolution unanimously passed by the National Assembly on Sept 3, calling for legal and constitutional steps to eliminate feudalism from the country,” MQM’s parliamentary leader Dr Farooq Sattar said at a news conference here on Tuesday. He was accompanied by other legislators of the party.

The MQM succeeded in getting the anti-feudalism resolution passed in the National Assembly. For that purpose it secured the support of the PML-N by backing its pro-democracy resolution during a debate on the flood situation last month.

Dr Sattar, who is also Minister for Overseas Pakistanis, described the submission of the bill as a first step towards empowerment of the 98 per cent people of the country and said it would liberate them from the ‘Jagirdari system’ as had been done in India and other countries.

“The object is to reduce the wide disparity of income and opportunity between rich landlords and poor tillers of the soil and to maximise the output of agricultural produce by intensive cultivation and optimal use of water through cooperative farming without let or hindrance by the government or bureaucracy,” says the “Statement of Object and Reasons” attached to “the Redistributive Land Reforms Bill 2010” submitted by the MQM as a private member’s bill.

The bill suggests constitution of “three-member land commissions” in the four provinces and at the centre to carry out the process of land reform in a judicious and transparent manner. The commissions should be headed by retired judges of the Supreme Court or high courts and comprise provincial ombudsmen and senior members of the provincial boards of revenue as members.

Answering a question, Dr Sattar said land surveys would be conducted by the commissions and landlords would be asked to submit declarations within three months along with details of total land they possessed. Satellite imaging could also be used for the surveys, he added.

After the resumption of estate-holdings on payment of compensation to the owners, the resumed land would be distributed among landless cultivators, tenants and owners holding less than the size of “economic holding”.

When asked to define the economic holding, the MQM leader said it was 36 acres for irrigated and 54 acres for arid lands.

Dr Sattar evaded a question about a deadline the MQM had in its mind to get the bill passed. He said the party knew that it would not be easy to get this bill passed by parliament which was representing the feudals.

However, he expressed the hope that the bill would mobilise public opinion. “Remember, it is the same parliament which passed a resolution against feudalism,” he said.

The MQM, he said, believed that the “corrupt political culture and rotten feudal system” were responsible for the present crises in the country. He said that attempts had been made in 1959, 1972 and 1977 to carry out land reforms, but these could not succeed because of conspiracies and compromises.

Dr Sattar said the bill would prove to be a ‘litmus test’ and expose the parties’ real face before the masses. He regretted that the country had been run on an ad hoc basis for 63 years and now the time had come to change the system, instead of mere faces.

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