LAHORE, Oct 31: Everyone knows, most of them are corrupt, well-connected and patronised by the powerful because of their `key’ position in the revenue department; so what, they are what they are – they are patwaris.

Of them, those working in Lahore have become so powerful that the provincial anti-corruption establishment does not dare to initiate action against even those who are nominated in FIRs and, in some cases, have also been declared proclaimed offenders by a court of law.

A senior officer has expressed the inability of the ACE to take action against corrupt patwaris because of “their political clout”.

Patwari Qasim Ali Shah epitomises the over all immunity these lower grade revenue officials enjoy from the law.

Posted at Mauza Niaz Baig for the last one decade or so, Shah is allegedly involved in transferring land worth millions of rupees to his relatives through fake documents. The ACE had registered two FIRs against Shah in 2005 and a court had already declared him proclaimed offender in the cases but apparently no serious effort was made by the Establishment to arrest him. According a source, Shah is still performing his `duty’ on the existing post without any fear of being caught.

ACE Chief Brig Aslam Ghuman (retired) told Dawn on Tuesday that the accused was absconding and ‘efforts’ were on to arrest him. He admitted that it was difficult to initiate action against corrupt patwaris, especially those posted in Lahore, because of their ‘strong political connections’.

Land disputes are on the rise reportedly owing to manipulation of patwaris as they change ownership of a property in connivance with other officials of the revenue department. In many cases these disputes result in bloodshed and take decades to resolve.

Those who make these corrupt officials that powerful by backing them, mostly include ministers, bureaucrats, politicians and even ‘mightier’ than all these.

According to ACE’s 2006 report: “Patwari, girdawar and tehsildar is a vital chain in the revenue hierarchy and they are usually involved in corrupt practices for fake entries in mutation, girdawari, preparation of revenue record like jamma bandi, imposition of agriculture income tax and rent on the land owners. They are also involved in fake entries of mutation fees, which is causing financial loss to the exchequer”.

“A patwari is the custodian of record and he has to maintain it on a daily basis. The general public has to approach patwari regarding entry of mutation or incorporation of orders in the revenue record. Patwaris usually adopt delaying tactics in the entries of different type of mutations like sale, mortgage and inheritance through registered sale deeds. Any correction of wrong entry in the revenue record takes considerable time. Usually the revenue officers have been found helpless due to lack of their supervision,” the report says.

ACE annually receives over 600 complaints against the patwaris posted in Lahore. Last year 4,512 complaints were reported to the ACE against revenue department officials.

According to sources, some of the patwaris posted in Lahore have such heavy `workload’ that they have to employ their retired colleagues and other staff to share the burden.

Though the ACE had planed to gather complete information regarding the bank balance and other assets in and outside the country amassed by the corrupt revenue officials, especially patwaris, but no progress has been made as yet in this regard.