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Sunday, September 24, 2023

The dilemma of land grabbing in Pakistan

Pakistan ranks at 116 out of 129 countries on the international property rights Index. In this regard, the writer talks about land rights in Pakistan that are often lost or extinguished as well-hatched schemas of organized land-grabbers or Qabza mafias played out through a system vulnerable to conspiring and abuse.

Late Feroze, whose legal heirs are daughters only, had booked a plot 52 years ago in the year 1970 and continuously paid money for the next 40 years till 2008 when the land mafia grabbed his land on the pretext of discrepancies by society management. In such a way, an estimated 15000 plots belonging to dozens of Private Societies of “Scheme 33, Karachi” were snatched away at the time when the price began to gain pace, from the basic owners who waited for 40 years.

The mafia co-ordinated among govt officials, politicians, criminal elements and police individuals, etc. The plot owners could not unionize themselves due to intimidation by land grabbers under the patronage of political figures.

Read more: Crackdown against Qabza group in Punjab: State land worth Rs210 billion retrieved

Strange Observations

It was in the year 2008, when the provincial government appointed administrators for around 40 cooperative societies in Scheme 33 Karachi, overruling the elected committees on the plea of mismanagement. As per a report published in The Express Tribune on November 17, 2012, officials in the Sindh government have admitted to taking over land owned by cooperative societies. They claim, however, that rampant corruption in the societies’ management forced them to take these steps.

Strangely, while carrying out the usual research for this article, I have observed that investigations were in the process by govt institutions involving many employees of the “Workers Welfare Board” who have had hundreds of duplicate files of these housing societies.

As per newspapers, in the year 2011 during a Supreme Court proceedings, the then Director FIA Moazzam Jah, and now IG Police KPK informed the court that former DG of “Sindh Workers Welfare Board” deposited Rs 900 million into an anonymous account in NICL deal. “The FIA traced the amount which was equally divided and transferred in three accounts.  And coincidentally the same DG was given the charge of Hon Secretary of the society wherein Late Feroze had the plot. The whole society was illegally occupied and still being sold through duplicate files.

Read more: Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz fail to file reply in land grabbing case

An executive issue & not a judicial issue 

Seeing the fact that courts of law cannot make timely decisions, the land grabbers love to get the cases to courts and, in the meantime, carry on selling activities. This is made possible by submitting forge/altered documents in the court thereby complicating/delaying the decisions. Since fixing the forged documents/submissions is the responsibility of the Executive, I believe delaying court cases is an Executive issue and not a Judicial Issue.

Making a separate department of Counter Forgery in line with the Counter-Terrorism department will fix this problem, as we see in the case of terrorism a decade ago, the Police and other security institutions used to be busy with many other things hence not able to control the terrorists who, at the time, seemed uncontrollable. And as soon as the exclusive Counter-Terrorism Department was established the impact of terrorism broke apart and our country took a sigh of relief.

On the same line, after establishing a Counter Forgery department where the department can prosecute those who lie on oath that includes forging stamp papers, forge/altered documents, fake witnesses, fake medical certificates, and so on and so forth, will reduce the decision time to minimum and judges can easily decide the cases on true merit within weeks.

Read more: War against land grabbers: Punjab govt hammers down illegal properties

This is all the more necessary because once the case is prejudiced in the court of law, even Prime Minister Citizen Portal does not entertain the case s in giving due relief to the masses. Finding nowhere to go, the people tend to take the law into their hands and cause chaos. Needless to mention that this will also help expedite 2.1 million pending cases in the courts of Pakistan.

While the country-wide drive for retrieving the occupied land is on and lately we saw a few landmark events like 8057 acres of land retrieved in Punjab and reclaiming the illegal land from famous Ala-Din Park, Pavilion End Club managements in Karachi, and same goes well all across the country, it is high time that PM IK may take a personal interest in this country’s biggest and brazen land grabbing here in Scheme 33, Karachi where around 15000 plots, owned by helpless basic allottees since 1970, have been illegally occupied and on sale now through duplicate files.

Read more: Land mafia taking over Edhi properties

Mushtaq Jumma is an Ex-Airliner and Business Consultant. He can be reached at mushtaqjumma@hotmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.