agricultural reforms of ayub khan

Written by Fiza Bibi Ameen 7:23 pm Articles, Pakistan, Published Content

The Agricultural Reforms of Ayub Khan: Revolutionizing Farming in Pakistan

Since its independence, Pakistan’s challenges have been calling for attention and essential reforms, but history has not seen a well-planned and effective approach to agricultural growth before Ayub Khan’s reign. Much like his strategy to industrialization, every decision he made in the agricultural sector had an impact, both directly and indirectly. This essay investigates the unique incentives offered, Ayub Khan’s stern stance against social malpractices in agriculture, the restrictions imposed on ownership of land, the positive outcomes, and the overlooked variables of the Green Revolution era.
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Fiza Bibi Ameen is a final-semester BS Physics student and gold medal qualifier at Riphah International University, Islamabad. She also contributed a prize-winning submission to the HEC inter-university essay writing competition for the year 2022. She fancies theoretical research in her subject and prospects of advancement in personal, professional, and economic life, particularly for the less developed parts of Pakistan.


Pakistan has had a significant global presence as a land with an agricultural background. Governments throughout history have focused on agricultural reforms in various ways, with the regime of Ayub Khan spanning 1958 to 1969 being notable for glimmers in agricultural landscapes. General Ayub Khan was initially welcomed in Pakistan with open arms. After trudging through political insecurity and its manifestation as upheavals in almost all sectors, the dismissal of central and provincial assemblies served as a seed from which hope was to sprout. 

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Since independence, Pakistan’s overall economic growth has not been in as bad a state as the distribution of capital, services, and rights. Ayub Khan changed the curtains for Pakistan, both politically and economically, through policies and legislation. What plagues all sectors of Pakistan even today are the social illegitimacies, and Ayub Khan paid special attention to addressing them. He severely punished the abductors, smugglers, blackmailers, corrupt people, and others involved in any societal vice. A country that had previously struggled with disgracefully contributing events from its highly superior careers and services now had someone to rely on for the resolution of deeply rooted issues. 

Agricultural Reforms

Many sectors were ignored before, with agriculture being one of them. Ayub Khan’s journey to change started with the development of banks, energy systems, irrigation networks, and farmer-friendly policies. Farmers were introduced to technology to make their lives easier and jobs less time-consuming. Just like in industrialization, where he overthrew the traditional powers of exploiting groups, he made it safe for agriculture to thrive. This was a much-needed step for Pakistan, a country with a low literacy rate yet deepened societal disparities.

To accomplish this in the agricultural domain, he limited the amount of irrigated land a person could own to 500 acres and 1,000 acres of unirrigated land. The remaining land, both irrigated and unirrigated, was to be taken from them. This authority over the land a citizen can possess has a direct relationship with agriculture. The narrower the hold of a land, the easier it is to translate aspirations about that land. So, this reduced the situations where nationals owned the land yet would not irrigate. In other words, irrigation was emphasized as a direct and indirect approach. His time was marked by an impressive GDP growth of 15%, as a consequence.

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The infrastructure improvements, a sector where Pakistan still lags behind its target, were significantly considered. In his era, Green Revolution policies increased agricultural production and self-sufficiency. Dam construction in his era also improved the agricultural stage, allowing it to breathe freely. He provided a new, optimistic direction for the resolution of the water and agricultural problems in Pakistan by signing the Indus Water Treaty and building the Tarbela and Mangla dams, the barrages, irrigation canals, etc.

Another incentive was the Agricultural Development Bank, which granted loans and financial support to the concerned citizens. It’s debatable if these loans and grants were sufficient to keep the debts for the poor lot from building up. However, Ayub Khan’s concern for involving the citizens, particularly the underprivileged, was noteworthy in other ways.

A Summary of Ayub Khan’s Agricultural Revolution

  1. He limited the allowed acres of land that a person could keep for irrigation and without it. Thus, the government had direct control over agriculture.
  2. In West Pakistan, the released lands were sold to civil and military officers, expanding the horizons of farmers to diverse groups.
  3. He brought modernized, industrialized changes to traditional agriculture. The result manifested as uniformity and an increase in production.
  4. His agricultural revolution also laid the foundations for parallel sectors such as power, water storage, infrastructure, and industrialization. As everything is connected when it comes to a country’s overall growth, the agricultural revolution owes itself to satisfying conditions in the economic landscape as a whole.
  5. Ayub Khan provided financial support to the farmers to draw in new ways in agriculture.
  6. The focus of Ayub Khan’s policies was the distribution of land so that it wasn’t deprived of irrigation to increase agricultural growth.
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Subtle Issues Woven in the Revolution

The government’s impediment to hoarding land by the public was positive in West Pakistan. However, the diversity that came as a consequence was not as advantageous for the farmers. Furthermore, landholding limits were raised in East Pakistan, and quite easily, landowners retained social and political power. Ayub Khan’s revolutionary period was not, thus, all-encompassing. As in his industrialization approach, he ignored some discrepancies very pertinent to the ground realities in both East and West Pakistan. The overall consequences, regardless, were positive.


Ayub Khan’s reign is one of the most celebrated periods in Pakistan’s agricultural history. He addressed the underlying and root causes that had not previously been prioritized. By limiting nationals to owning a specific portion of the country’s land, the government ensured that people of various careers and passions were involved in agriculture. Thus, everyone’s contribution was welcomed. Improved infrastructure, dam construction, water treaties, and industrialization all played a role in revolutionizing agriculture. 

Financial assistance for the poor farmers ensured their participation in this sector, allowing them to modernize their traditional agriculture. The period, however, failed to account for the lack of restrictions on land ownership in East Pakistan and the comparison that could result. It also ignored the impact of agricultural diversification on farmers.  Regardless of the subtle issues associated with the approach, the agriculture sector reforms of Ayub Khan remain a pleasant part of Pakistan’s history—a part that every Pakistani would like to see translated more in the agricultural domain.

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