RAWALPINDI: Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali Randhawa has set up a cell to identify benami (unnamed) properties in the district, following directives to this effect from Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The cell, which is led by the additional deputy commissioner revenue and includes assistant commissioners and superintendents of police as its members, will check the land revenue records of people suspected of owning benami properties and their relatives in the district.

Mr Khan had asked the heads of development authorities throughout the provinces to identify such properties using their own records and monitoring mechanisms.

A notice directed all deputy commissioners and heads of development authorities across the country to submit a certificate at the end of the exercise verifying that there were no benami properties in their jurisdictions apart from those that have been identified.

A senior district administration official told Dawn that identifying unnamed properties would not be easy, as the administration will not check the records of more than a million district residents.

Cell will begin operating formally next week, to be assisted by various depts including police, civic bodies and FBR

He said the government wants to document the economy and has asked district administrations to find unnamed properties across the country, but doing so will not be as easy as it may be considered.

However, he said, the administration will work on this matter after receiving information from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and other sources.

The cooperation of tehsildars and patwaris (revenue officials) will be necessary, as they know the properties in their respective areas, he added.

The official said land revenue department records will be consulted, which is why the district administration has included assistant commissioners in the cell. The police’s Special Branch will also be asked to assist when it comes to suspects living in various areas.

Last month, he said, the district’s revenue department found an unnamed property belonging to PML-N Senator Chaudhry Tanveer based on a tip from the National Accountability Bureau, among others.

The district administration will begin working on this matter formally next week, he said. Officials deputed in the records room have been asked not to make any changes to the records.

The official said properties will be identified after checking bank accounts. Benami accounts also provide the administration the opportunity to find suspected unnamed properties.

The cantonment boards will also share records of commercial and domestic properties in their jurisdictions, as they collect property taxes and fees imposed on the transfer of property.

Cantonment board officials said property records will be shared with the cell to detect unnamed properties in their area, and the administration should identify the owner, the owner’s relatives and employees.

Deputy Commissioner Randhawa said the cell to find unnamed properties in the district has been established and will begin operating next week after it receives formal directives from the Punjab government.

The cell will be assisted by all government departments and civic organisations to provide records of relevant individuals who will be declared suspected owners.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2019