USAID country Profile: Property Rights and Resource Governance: Pakistan
The densely-settled Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS) in Pakistan produces food and the commodities that drive industry, with cotton textiles accounting for some 50-60% of exports. The IBIS is a resource shared with India, and while 90% of the IBIS land area is in Pakistan, a treaty with India governs Pakistan's access to water. Ownership of irrigated land in the Indus Valley is highly concentrated. Between 20% and 40% of rural households are reported to be landless or near-landless. They either lease or sharecrop land when they can or work as laborers on and off farms; many are raising stall-fed livestock. Poverty is highly correlated with landlessness and is seen as contributing to political and social instability. Repeated government attempts to address inequality of access to land and tenure insecurity have largely failed to transform the system. Tenants and sharecroppers have little incentive to invest in sustainable production practices. Insecure land tenure, coupled with poor water policy and management have led to increasing degradation of land. Undervaluing the water supply has led to waterlogging and inefficient water-use in some areas while poor water distribution has caused lack of water in other areas, lowering the profitability of land and the incentive to invest in complementary inputs. Enactment of a comprehensive legal framework for establishing more equitable access to property and more transparent land administration could, many analysts believe, contribute to both political and economic development objectives. Given Pakistan's history, however, the preparation and administration of such a framework would require substantial and sustained leadership on the part of both federal and provincial governments. Alternatively, linking statutory law with local customary law, ensuring that women have rights to property as established in law, and the establishment of a land registration system that incorporates the current tax-revenue-based system of records with standardized documents and registries could increase tenure security and reduce land-based conflicts. Reforms could also address urban land issues, currently cited by Pakistani firms as one of the barriers to investment. As government ownership of land in urban areas is significant, a more proactive role for local development authorities to address housing and industrial needs appears feasible. There also seems to be a need for more effective governance of urban areas to allocate land for low-income housing and prevent illegal land seizures and squatting.