SAD though it may be, it is far from surprising. As reported by this newspaper yesterday, the latest but as yet unpublished agriculture census finds that up to 80 per cent of the people in the country’s farming sector own just 28 per cent of all privately-owned agricultural land. Add to this the Federal Statistics Division’s finding that there are a little more than 19,000 big landlords with holdings of over 150 acres. While they constitute just 0.23 per cent of the total number of landowners, their share nearly equals that of the 67 per cent of farmers who own up to five-acre holdings and are categorised as the poorest in the farming sector. The bland statistics obfuscate one of the most serious disconnects in the country. Whichever sector is examined, be it agriculture, healthcare, education or practically any other, the elite — who constitute a fraction of the overall population — are using up the overwhelming bulk of the available resources. In plain terms, the minority appropriates what the majority needs to pull itself out of its misery.
Such a trajectory can be seen in any inequitable society at any point in human history. And yet, this is the very underlying trend that must be countered if there is ever to be any hope for Pakistan’s faceless, nameless millions. For decades the country has flirted with the idea of imposing taxes on the agricultural sector so that the economy as a whole can benefit. The effort has met with little success, given that in many cases the elements that have the power to bring about a veto are the very ones that have large and lucrative stakes in agricultural land and the related economy. Will a government ever have the will to bring agriculture into the tax net? That remains a moot point.