Curse of the land mafia
08 October, 2013
The land mafia in Pakistan has become very strong — it even openly defies court orders. Our people have traditionally respected women and children, especially orphaned children. However, the land mafia has targeted them. Taji Khokhar's family gunned down a woman in front of the police. In Islamabad, Ms Salma, the manager of the Services Cooperative Housing Society was shot dead in her office by the land mafia. She had managed to clear all the hurdles created by the mafia and had started the process of allotment of plots to members who had been waiting for more than 30 years. After Ms Salma's murder, the culprits managed to get stay orders and all the development work came to a halt.
Another shameful incident was the forced taking over of a house owned by a widow in Peshawar. The poor woman sought help from the previous government and, reportedly, the ex-chief minister asked for one fourth of the house's value in cash as the price for helping her. In Peshawar, in the posh locality of University Town, a public park was taken over by a local ex-MPA and his cronies, and was turned into a restaurant. Although the local residents of the area filed a legal suit, the judge stalled the proceedings for four years. To date, the case is still pending.
All of these incidents clearly indicate the requirement of strict laws in dealing with land mafia-related crimes. The police cannot do anything to stop them. The MPA/MNAs are benefiting from these crimes while the judiciary is useless in curtailing this menace. Therefore the prime minister has to use special measures to deal with these criminals. There should be provisions for quick checking of the ownership of any property. All land records should be computerised. Any government employee found to be associated with the land mafia should be given the harshest of punishments. Strict standards should be introduced in managing housing societies. They should not be allowed to take payments and ignore the development of the plots for years on end. Housing society advertisements should be verified on a central phone number. These laws will help reduce crime and improve investment in land development. They will ensure that the prime minister is able to deliver on his promise of constructing millions of houses for the poor.