There was never any progressive bourgeoisie in Pakistan to carry out the tasks of the national democratic revolution. The history of the last 71 years shows us that the Pakistani ruling class is not capable of undertaking the much-needed civil service, police and judicial reforms to decolonise the colonial state structure and introduce drastic changes in the socioeconomic system.
I have no illusions that reforms alone can transform or replace the existing system. But reforms play an important role to improve the lives of millions of poverty-stricken working people. They provide a breathing space to the working classes to prepare for future struggles, and only make repressive and exploitative systems more acceptable for the working class.
To undertake radical reforms, the leadership requires political will and determination to attack the interests of powerful groups and all the beneficiaries of the status quo.
At the moment, the ruling class at does not seem interested in such radical reforms. The reason is simple: the existing state structure and social and economic system is serving the interests of the ruling class, which is the direct beneficiary of this repressive, exploitative and outdated system and structure.
Mass movements organised by the working and middle classes can impose enough pressure on the ruling class and the government to initiate radical reforms. The radical reforms introduced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s were the result of the mass mobilisation of the working class and sections of radicalised middle class, students, intellectuals and peasants.
In my view, the working class, the poor, the radicalised layers of the middle class and pro-people intellectuals will spearhead a mass movement for radical reforms. Pressure will mount on the ruling class to initiate reforms since price hikes, poverty, worsening economic conditions, unemployment and falling living standards will force the working people to take up struggle and resistance. So it is important to discuss what sort of reforms and economic policies are required to bring real change.
Let’s start with the agriculture sector. The ruling class has failed to solve the agrarian question. Land ownership is highly concentrated in a few hands as feudal lords continue to hold the huge land holdings. The big feudal lords and middle-class farmers have enough income to enjoy lavish lives because they own big lands.
But millions of landless peasants and small farmers are living in miserable conditions of poverty, exploitation and meagre incomes because either they have no land ownership or very small ones. Rural poverty, inequality, low literacy rate and underdevelopment are directly linked with land ownership.
According to the agriculture census of 2000 and a Dawn report published in 2008, “61 percent of the total private holdings are under five acres and ownership of 50 acres and above are only two per cent. Majority of the landholdings, 94 percent, are in the category of less than 25 acres while only six percent holdings are in the category of 25 acres and above.
“There are wide provincial variations; in Punjab and NWFP (sic), dominant ownership holdings fall in the category of under five acres, 61.34 percent and 79 percent respectively while in Sindh and Balochistan, the majority of the land ownership is in the size class of five acres to under 25 acres, 46 percent and 52 percent respectively. In Sindh and Balochistan, the shares of landholdings of 25 acres and above are the highest among all four provinces, 12 percent and 18.6 percent respectively”.
“A 2010 World Bank study reveals that only two percent farm household’s control 45pc of farmland and 98pc control the remaining 55pc. According to 2010 Census of Agriculture, which is the latest, 75pc of Pakistan’s total farm area belonged to owners whereas the remaining 25pc was cultivated by tenants or owners-cum-tenants. 90pc farms are categorised as small, 6pc as medium and only 4pc as large”. (Dawn, 2018)
Pakistan is desperately in need of one hand of land reforms to abolish big landholdings and to solve the agrarian question. Distribution of land to landless peasants will help increase productivity and eradicate poverty in feudal dominated areas.
Cooperative farming is also inevitabls, to overcome the problem of small landholding. Under the law of inheritance, small family landholdings are continued to subdivide even into much smaller holdings. This very small-scale landholding becomes unviable for commercial agriculture. Moreover, holdings are scattered. It is difficult to use modern machinery on small pieces of land. Cooperative farming provides a solution to the problems faced by small farmers. This is the only way small farmers can involve in large-scale production with the use of modern technology, machinery and techniques. Traditional and orthodox techniques of production cannot increase production to international levels.
The agriculture sector has been in crisis. Pakistan is lagging behind even with its South Asian neighbours in productivity. The country needs to modernise the agriculture sector with the help of the latest technology and scientific research.
However, the short-sighted, visionless and rent-seeking ruling class has no policies, programme or plan to develop the agriculture sector on a modern scientific basis.