Agricultural land acquisition by foreign investors in Pakistan: Government policy and community responses
Settle, Antonia C.
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This paper explores the Pakistani government’s 2009 agricultural investment policy package — a response to increasing foreign investor interest in agricultural land — and considers the likely implications for local communities. By analysing the policy pertaining to the categories of cultivated and uncultivated land, the paper explores possible consequences that peasant farming communities and grazing communities face. The policy’s dependence on arbitrary and anti-poor colonial-era laws and processes places the policy squarely in established centre–periphery relations rooted by colonial-era politics of land ownership. Thus, the offer of agricultural land to foreign investors is both an unprecedented international land grab and a development in ongoing land appropriation by influential people through state apparatuses, continuous with colonial practices. This in turn has spurred community responses within the same dynamic of colonially rooted centre–periphery conflict; community responses revolve around various ethnic separatist movements that originated in earlier colonial politics. Apart from the precarious balance of social and economic power in Pakistan — evident in the making and implications of the agricultural investment policy — the findings point to an urgent need for the Pakistani government to address environmental and food security issues.