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Land records of two city localities go online this month

Updated August 13, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Aug 12: Computerised land records of two of the 112 Mauzas of the federal capital territory would become available online this month, according to the local administration.

However, notwithstanding the high hopes of the administration, the feat, achieved 10 years after the government announced the “computerized fard” project in 2003, is unlikely to finish off the lowly but powerful Patwari with the first blow.

“Until six weeks ago, the task was with the e-government directorate (eGD) of the ministry of Information Technology. Now we are doing it and we know better how to manage the resources,” Amer Ali, Deputy Commissioner Islamabad, told Dawn.

“The main difference between us and the eGD is that they wanted to set the (digitial) system first. But we are going for the implementation, wherever it is possible,” he added, his last words betraying the difficulties lying ahead.

Most of the difficulties revolve around, the loathsome Patwari, a nominally literate Grade 4 government employee allowed by law to prepare and keep the record of every inch of land in his precinct.

And only he knows the real location and dimensions of a piece of land, belonging to the government and individuals – and can make changes in the record of ownership and dimensions, mostly allegedly to benefit of the moneyed people and himself.

That is why, it is said, it took three years to make the Patwaris cross the country to part with their records to initiate its digitisation in 2006.

Since then the eGD has digistised 80 per cent of the land records of the 112 Mauzas of the federal capital territory and those of Mauza Jandala and Rihara falling in Bhara Kahu area are set to be placed online this month.

The Islamabad administration plans to do the same for the entire Islamabad territory by June 2014.

“We are approaching the task in phases. It will help us understand, and rectify, the lacunas in the system,” DC Amer Ali said.

Meanwhile, the legality of Computerised fard is a big question mark unless the 1960 law which puts all the legal powers regarding the document in the hands of the Patwari, is changed.

Otherwise, the digital copy of a fard will be just virtual document.

For the starter, the Islamabad Administration has established a Revenue Centre at Bhara Kahu, where all the Patwaris of the area will sit and verify and sign the computerised fard.

However, signature is not the only issue. Many changes are to be incorporated in the format of the fard, like mentioning the CNIC number of the holder of the fard.

“An amendment bill is already been placed in the National Assembly and it is likely to be approved in few months,” said an official of the Islamabad administration.

To ensure the implementation of the project the Islamabad administration has signed an MoU with Suparco for the satellite map of each Mauza and the land demarcations will be shown on a real-time map.

Under the existing system all the land demarcations are drawn on cotton cloth and remains in the possession of the Patwari.

If the computerisation of land records is implemented in true sprit – it will not only reduce crimes like land grabbing and other scams but the small land owners will also have the advantage of bank mortgage value of their property.

The country-wide eGD project was aimed at ending rampant corruption in land management and prolonged and often bloody dispute it gave rise to.

Only to do that was by doing away with the centuries old ways of preparing hand-written records and maps of land holdings, which put enormous power in the hands of Patwaris and their cohorts in the Land Revenue Departments across the country.

No surprise that the eGD faced non-cooperation and tacit resistance from both circles. Not one province has been able to get its entire land record computerised.

But, Punjab, though considered the bastion of feudalism in the country, has made the most progress in that direction under the stewardship of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

But even there, the record of only a handful districts could be computerised so far. They don’t include the Rawalpindi district.

In the Islamabad territory, even the traditional big landholders have welcomed the digitisation of land records.

“This is one of the most positive developments. It will provide security of land to common citizens,” said Sibti Shah, younger brother of eminent politician of Bhara Kahu and chairman Senate, Nayyar Bukhari.

Although his family has not been accused in any land scam, he said he daily comes across petitioners complaining about Patwaris.

“Most of them carry records showing the land belongs to them but a Patwari’s magical hand can make it less, or the property of someone else, or even make it non-existent,” he said.

Last month, the Islamabad administration suspended eight of the 40 Patwaris of the territory for obstructing the digitisation programme.

Political reasons

In contrast to the political backing that the sleaze enjoyed in the decades past, the newly elected government seems to be dealing with the problem earnestly.

That gave the Islamabad administration the strength to select two “efficient” Patwaris to initiate the work in six model Mauzas of Bhara Kahu.

The two had been shuttling between Lahore and Islamabad to hold meetings with the IT firm executing the project to see that all the loopholes are plugged.

Perhaps, the work has gained speed because Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan is monitoring the whole process.

“No doubt the PML-N stands to gain political mileage as the new system would benefit mainly small land holders, at the same time it would weaken the hold of rival land developer tycoons in the area,” mused an official of the local administration.

“These are mostly the opponents of Chaudhry Sahib,” he said without naming anybody but appeared referring to Malik Riaz and Taji Khokhar.

Latter’s brother Haji Nawaz Khokhar, one time PML-N deputy speaker of the National Assembly, said: “A person recently turned up in a local court and accused me of grabbing hundreds of kanals of his lands.

“After days of hard search we established that the accuser’s father only had 12 marla land, four marlas were acquired by the CDA and eight were sold by his father in 1982.”