Land reforms bill needs parliamentarians’ attention


ISLAMABAD: The landlords sitting in both houses of parliament have been suppressing the Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill for the last seven years, Pakistan Today has learned.

One officer, on the condition of anonymity, said that FLC had proposed the Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill in 2011, but neither any parliamentarian nor the incumbent government took up the matter in the lower house.

The landlords sitting in the National Assembly (NA) are against the legislation because they think that it would affect them, the officer claimed.

The landlords have occupied a large portion of the land in different parts of the country despite the fact that the department had resumed the land from those landholders.

The officer further said that the FLC, on a number of occasions, had asked the tenants to apply for the surrendered land but no one wanted to get the land out of fear of the landlords.

Documents indicate that FLC has so far resumed 3.4 million acres of land from landholders in different parts of the country. The department has resumed 1.3 million acres of land in Punjab, 1.1 million acres in Sindh, 0.55 million acres in Balochistan and 0.411 million acres in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

In addition to this, FLC allocated 1.1 million acre land to 0.13 allotees in Punjab and 1.07 million acres of land to 60724 allotees in Sindh. The department further allocated 0.358 million acres of land to 15535 allotees in Balochistan and 0.32 million acres of land to 43500 allotees in KP. Presently, 0.17 million acres of land has not been allotted yet in the four provinces.

The FLC had proposed in a bill that Article 203-D (3) (a) of the Constitution of Pakistan would be amended after consultation with provincial land commissions and stakeholders (landlords and tenants). The purpose of the proposed amendment was to retain the limit on individual holdings of land as per 1977 Land Reforms.

Moreover, it had also suggested that payment should be provided at market rates as compensation for the surrendered land. It also allowed the provincial governments to utilise the resumed land for public purposes, subject to the approval of the federal government. In addition, it had been proposed that the government should give exemption to the land acquired through inheritance and lands of religious trusts.

The Supreme Court (SC) had also given a verdict on this matter in 1990 and the top court had directed that inherited land cannot be resumed and resumption cannot be made retrospectively.

The court had also stated in its verdict that compensation of resumed land shall be paid at market rates but no case of resumed land would be compensated after March 3, 1990.

Officers said that the federal government is also not taking up this matter in the Council of Common Interests (CCI) as the forum can likely build consensus on the matter.

Surprisingly, the department was transferred under the Minister of Information and Broadcasting in 2011 which does not have any link with land issues. The ministry also requested the prime minister to transfer the department to the cabinet division but to no avail, the officer added.

It is worth mentioning here that under the present law, a landholder can keep up to100 acres irrigated, 200 acres of un-irrigated land or 8000 Produce Index Units (PIU) by paying Rs 30 per PIU. It was brought down from 500 acres of irrigated land, 1000 acres of un-irrigated land and 36000 PIUs respectively.