NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has proposed a ban on the purchase and renting of farmland by foreigners ahead of the expiration of a moratorium on land sales.
Toqaev said on February 25 that "in order to stop rumors" he had ordered the drawing up of an outline of a law "banning the buying and renting of Kazakhstan's farmland by foreign persons and companies."
"The land issue has always been very important for our nation. It is a fundamental and sacred symbol of our statehood.... I also ordered the formation of a commission on land reform by March 25," Toqaev said.
The government's moratorium on farmland sales to foreigners is set to expire later this year.
The five-year moratorium was introduced in 2016 after thousands ofpeople demonstrated in unprecedented rallies across the tightly controlled Central Asian state against the government's plan to attract foreign investment into agriculture by opening up the farmland market.
The protests stopped after the government withdrew the plan, but two men who organized the largest rally in the western city of Atyrau, Talghat Ayan and Maks Boqaev, were sentenced to five years in prison each after being found guilty of inciting social discord, knowingly spreading false information, and violating the law on public assembly.
Ayan was released on parole in April 2018, and Boqaev was released earlier this month.
Opposition groups have announced rallies across the country on February 28 with land reform as one of their main demands.