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Want global security from terrorists? Give land to Pakistan's poor.

Distributing house-and-garden microplots as part of flood recovery would help Pakistan's landless poor build better lives for themselves, and fend off Taliban recruiters who prey on their grievances.

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Now that the floodwaters in Pakistan are receding, officials from Islamabad to Washington are faced with a great possibility.

This disaster that swept so much away may actually provide an opportunity to sweep away the biggest roadblock to improving Pakistan's stability, furthering its economic growth, and lessening its threat to global security: the widespread lack of landownership by the rural poor.

The landless poor have no meaningful stake in rural society, and it is often the Taliban who step in to use their grievances as grounds for recruitment.

For the poor, owning at least some land of one's own is a lifeline to survival – a basic source of nutrition, income, status, and security. Grossly mistreated by landowners, the landless poor in country after country have supported severe civil unrest and outright revolution.

The state of Pakistan's rural poor

Pakistan's land-tenure problems are more severe and have been more persistently ignored than nearly any others found on the planet. Though the flood altered Pakistan's landscape, it did not alter the fact that the vast majority of land in Pakistan is owned by a very small number of landlords – chiefly by 300 families of "feudals" who have ruled the Pakistani countryside for generations.


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