1 1947 - 1965, the period of stagnating agriculture

In 1947. Pakistan was merely an agricultural country. A few factories, especially for processing cotton and sugar could only be found in the cities of Karachi and Lyallpur.
The young nation's main task in the initial years was to secure its population's survival, to integrate millions of refugees from India and to legitimize the new state. In an agricultural country, it was not surprising that the first political approaches were made in agriculture.

While the agrarian reform measures of the first years were not very drastic, the abolition of intermediaries was rather successful. This measure could be enforced because it did away with colonial relicts. It was far more difficult to enforce a ceiling legislation, although land was urgently needed for distribution to refugees. The Land Reform Law of 1950, limiting ownership of landed property to 100 ha irrigated or 200 ha non-irrigated land, xairning at the country's elite, could very often be evaded. The government had to distribute government land to satisfy the most urgent needs of refugees. Contrary to proclamations, tenants were hardlv involved in the reform measures.

For the development process, the structure of the country's elite was determinating. It was and still is pluralistic, with landowners, military men and higher administrative officers - and these often in close relationships - sharing power in the initial years. An industrial elite developed some years later only, consisting mainly of families migrating from India. The landowners were of decisive importance during that time.

The large landowners practised mostly a policy which has been characterized as "rental feudalism". The land was rented to small tenants, and landlords cared little about improving agriculture but tried to earn higher incomes by strict control of the rent. Their aim was not to increase the production but increase the skimmed off part of the yield.

Of course, there were also numerous small and medium farms, but their efficiency was limited. They practised traditional farming. Improved seed varieties, fertilizers, etc. were not available and the irrigation system had many shortcomings, especially as far as management is concerned. Salinity became more widespread.

The objectives of these smaller farms were rather self-sufficiency and barter at local level. Lacking infrastructure even made it difficult to produce for the market.

During this time, several large-scale attempts were made to improve agricultural development, by way of extension, by establishing cooperatives and by a community development programme. All of these had little success partly because of a too isolated approach, partly because of insufficient personnel and financial means and also because the rural elite was more oriented towards retaining the status quo than towards agricultural development. In this and later periods, the frequent change in strategies had a negative impact. No approach was carried on long enough to be able to mature.

Almost stagnating agriculture meant production increase below the population increase of 2.5 to 3 per cent and thus constant dependence upon the food imports. This consumed foreign exchange, caused political dependence and hindered non-agricultural development.

In line with the concepts of development policy at that time, the first Five-Year-Plan laid emphasis on the industrial development but with poor success. Lack of industrial tradition, shortage of capital and foreign currency, limited purchasing power among the mass of the population and too strong regulation and interference by government created a climate which hardly promoted industrial development.

Increasing population and reduction in farm sizes as result of the inheritance custom led to growing underemployment. Adjustment by way of migration was hardly possible because of the few jobs in towns. Moreover, the caste system, still intact at the time, prevented many persons from changing their occupations as is generally required when one migrates. Indeed, the castes (zat) in Pakistan lacked the religious components, but they are rigid, endogamous patronage groups. Otherwise, there was often a strong aversion to manual work outside agriculture and to working for others.

During this period of stagnating traditional economy and agriculture, there were not many forces which tended towards changing the conditions. Besides the few cities and towns, the country consisted of a large number of isolated villages populated by illiterates. Until the war against India, in 1965, the mass of the population had hardly developed any national feeling. There were no transistors nor other means of communication in the rural areas. Therefore, for the mass of the population, the world was restricted to an orbit of a few villages. Agriculture and the urban centres had little connection politically or economically.

The role of agriculture in this community at that time was:

  • to provide food and raw materials;
  • to form capital mainly for transfer to other sectors by way of taxes and
  • to procure foreign exchange, especially by cotton export, and
  • to absorb the increasing number of labourers.

The stagnating agriculture fulfilled these tasks to a limited extent only and, therefore, contributed little towards development. The feudal structure provided no incentives for change. Peasants were dependent on their landlords.