Dawn, June 16th, 2017
ISLAMABAD: The Federal Shariat Court (FSC) was criticised during a meeting of a Senate standing committee on Thursday for derailing land reforms in the country.
The committee urged provinces to support efforts for a new law in this regard.
The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting met for a special hearing by senior lawyer Abid Hassan Manto regarding his case in the Supreme Court for initiating land reforms in the country.
He told the committee that land reforms were derailed after a decision by the Federal Shariat Court in a case popularly known as the Kazalbash Trust Case in 1989, in which it was decided that land reforms were un-Islamic.
PPP Senator Taj Haider said he was in favour of land reforms in the country and said Justice Taqi Usman had even ruled that the breaking up of large land holdings was also un-Islamic.
Mr Manto said he had gone to the apex court against the judgement by the Shariat Court but the SC was not taking up the case.
“Former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry even asked me where my clients who wanted land reforms were, as those opposing the reforms were also there,” he said.
He requested the Senate body to either become party in the SC case or formulate a law to initiate land reforms in the country.
Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali said if the Senate becomes party in the SC case it would mean they are lowering their powers as lawmakers and are asking the same from the court, and suggested a new law for land reforms should be made.
The chairman of the committee, Senator Kamil Ali Agha said the Federal Shariat Court has left nothing to initiate land reforms.
The 1989 Shariat Court judgement says the government cannot take inherited or religious land and has to pay market price to buy land from private individuals. Committee members observed that the government cannot take land given by colonial rulers but can take land from individuals who bought it after independence.
“If the government has to buy land at market rate from landowners who do not even till it, then where will the reforms go,” Senator Agha asked.
Officials of the Federal Land Commission informed the committee that one of the reasons for the delays in land reforms was the continuous shifting of the commission from one ministry to the other and that it was currently part of heritage and therefore under the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage.
The committee was told that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan were opposed to laws regarding land reforms while Senator Haider said Sindh supported laws for land reforms.
Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja said small land holdings will ensure high yield at low cost as families will concentrate on effective farming and stated that feudalism was the opponent of democracy.
The committee was informed that land reforms were initiated in 1959 which limited land holding to 500 acres for irrigated land and 1,000 acres of un-irrigated land and the land reforms of 1972 set these limits to 150 acres and 300 acres respectively.
The committee has asked the provinces to forward their point of view over land reforms under which large land holdings will be distributed among landless farmers and family members to ensure effective and technical farming.