Partition related dispossession and subsequent resettlement was arguably a more important influence on the politics of land in Pakistan than the land reforms that followed it. It is helpful to understand the historical antecedents of the land economy in Punjab and Sindh before the partition. Without such historical understanding it becomes easy to treat the partition-related dispossession as an idiosyncratic, if tragic, interregnum in an otherwise smooth narrative of economic development and modernization. Not paying due attention to partition-related dispossession also leads to misunderstanding the antecedents of subsequent land reforms, the development of land markets, and the continuing conflict and contests over land.
The development of canal colonies from the 1880s onwards had changed both the geography and demography of western Punjab. All of the colonization was in western Punjab, while most of the “high density” districts that had been identified by the state for land allotment were in central and eastern Punjab. A large part of the partition-related dispossession was from the canal colonies where migrants from eastern districts had been settled.
After 1947 a communalized colonization process was speeded up and completed. Sikh and Hindu settlers were “evacuated”, many of them to their “original” home districts in eastern Punjab. Muslim displaced persons from eastern Punjab were quickly settled in their places.