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War against land grabbers: Punjab govt hammers down illegal properties


News Analysis |

Protests against local authorities and the government erupted in Johar Town Lahore and various spots in Multan as the Punjab Government continued its third day of anti-encroachment drive in both cities on 4th October.

In an extension to the PTI government’s anti-encroachment operations that started with the capital city, the Lahore Development Authority and Metropolitan Corporation with the District Administration machinery demolished scores of infrastructures on state land as well as illegal private properties in Lahore, on Tuesday the 2nd of October.

Heavy and armed contingents of police encircled the locality early morning while cranes, bulldozers and other heavy machinery were brought to the scene by the city government and LDA teams.

“Mansha Bomb”, a notorious land grabber from Lahore, was the main accused who grabbed dozens of private plots as well as state land worth billions of rupees on Main Boulevard linking College Road with Wapda Town. 80 Kanals of land which was grabbed and constructed upon by the mafia were recovered and the structures were demolished.

The recovered land, in the area of Johar Town, is reportedly worth Rs. 5 Billion. Mansha Bomb had rented out land to traders who constructed temporary structures and were selling new and used furniture for the past many years. Several furniture workshops have also been established on the state land, which was demolished.

Read more: Punjab government launches massive assault against illegal construction

The operation was started early morning on Tuesday, under the direct supervision of LDA Director General Amna Imran Khan while Deputy Commissioner Lahore, Chief Engineer of LDA Mazhar Khan and other senior officials were present at the scene. Heavy and armed contingents of police encircled the locality early morning while cranes, bulldozers and other heavy machinery were brought to the scene by the city government and LDA teams.

A similar operation was carried out in the Anarkali area. Operators of heavy machinery were instructed to ignore the general public and protesting residents who initially tried to intervene but owing to the heavy contingents of police they backed out. Officials of Civil Defence and Rescue 1122 were also present on the spot to avoid any untoward incident and contingency management.

Ironically, it has always blamed the PTI for being a land mafia but when the same PTI is taking concrete actions against the land grabbers, the PML-N has become its greatest opponent.

Deputy Commissioner Lahore Capt (R) Anwar-ul-Haq, while addressing the media said that district administration is at full vigilance in anti-encroachment drive and it will complete its operation until the complete elimination of encroachment and retrieval of state land from the metropolitan city. Speaking to the media, Provincial Minister and Senior PTI leader Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed said that the government is determined to take strict action against the mafia.

He said that a zero-tolerance policy has been adopted by the officers and no one will be spared. The LDA DG said that the operation would continue in Johar Town and many other localities in the coming days. She said proper post-operation monitoring of the vacated land will be ensured and police kiosks will be established at Johar Town and other sites. Last month, hundreds of illegal structures were demolished in Islamabad as the first leg of the PTI government’s anti-encroachment drive.

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These properties had been illegally occupied by various groups and commercial investors, mostly in the G-12 sector and along Kashmir highway. Marriage halls, shops, restaurants, auto-showrooms, and illegal homes were demolished. A McDonald’s franchise, located on a petrol pump along the Kashmir highway was also brought down to the ground.

Land Grabbing has become a lucrative source for criminal elements. It is considered by many to be a sure shot way to richness. Many housing societies have been known to have taken over other people’s properties. In fact, the largest property business in Pakistan Bahria town is notorious for having used groups called Qabza mafias to take over land illegally.

Read more: Margalla Hills engulfed in fire and illegal encroachment

Many of these groups have enjoyed political patronage. The Taji Khokhar group from Rawalpindi was known to enjoy good relations with the PPP and has even been alleged to have attacked the convoys of its once rival the PML-N. The PML-N itself is suspected to have ties with Qabza groups. In fact, the PML-N suffered defections due to its association with Qabza groups in June.

Recently, The PML-N has been on the forefront in raising w a voice for “victims of the government” and its deputy mayor in Faisalabad tried to stop the operation. Ironically, it has always blamed the PTI for being a land mafia but when the same PTI is taking concrete actions against the land grabbers, the PML-N has become its greatest opponent.

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