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Woe to Shangrila

July 27, 2011

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ISLAMABAD, July 26: Ibrahim Saeed had a dream — to own a farmhouse one  day.

And as he was someone who turned       his dreams into reality, Saeed invested       his hard earned savings into four kanals       in Shah Allah Ditta village.

But four years on, his dreams lay shattered.

“It later emerged that there are  several owners of the land,” said Ibrahim Saeed, not his real name.

The  four kanals that Saeed purchased for Rs1.85 million is now being contested inthe courts.

Saeed’s story is not a unique one. Many innocent citizens have lost their savings in purchasing bits of lands in and around this village only to find out later that they were hoodwinked.

Most  of them are now fighting legal battles with no hope that they will either win possession of the land or retrieve their money.

“Almost 70percent of the cases in civil courts of the Islamabad administration courts, including the Islamabad High Court, are linked to land disputes in rural areas of the city,” a source in the ICT  administration told Dawn. Land in Shah Allah Ditta is among them.

Saeed told Dawn that he had purchased the land because of the interest everyone was taking in land in Zone-III.

He added that he was given guarantees by the patwaris that the land he was  purchasing had no legal controversies attached to it.

“But all their [Patwaris] claims were false,” said Saeed ruing the day he believed them.

According to an ICT official, who did not want to be named, said that around 23,000 kanal land is located in Shah Allah Ditta village and its surrounding.

“Around 6,000 kanal of land has been  purchased by the housing society developers of sectors D-13, E-13 and C-13,” he  informed.

The rest of land around 17,000 kanal,  he said, was private land besides “I am not aware about Shamlat land.”

“The federal government has only 30 kanals of land in and around Shah Allah Ditta” he said.

While commenting on the land disputes,  he said several ‘hundred’ others are also fighting for justice in local courts because of the poor management of Land and Revenue Department that  oversees the sale, purchase and transfer of land in the rural areas of the city.

An official explained that “Cases related to land disputes are limited in the urban areas because the civic authority has a strict mechanism for transfer, sale and purchase of land.” However, in the  rural areas, there are few checks and balances. Because of this dubious property dealers and conmen are crawling all over the Shah Allah Ditta area, showing and selling land to unsuspecting citizens.

A property dealer, Raja Ilyas, said that the price of one kanal of land with proper access is around Rs120,000.

Compare this to what Saeed paid for four kanals.

“The land price depends on the access to the plot from the main road as well as whether it is in at an elevated spot or a depression,” said Ilyas.

An official in the land revenue department told Dawn that local administration courts were dealing with a large number of land related cases of ‘controversial’  deals from Shah Allah Ditta village.

An ICT official said that “a few people were reselling the same plots in Shah Allah Ditta village to make a quick buck.”

He advised the citizens try to verify more than once the record of the land with the relevant authorities – ICT’s Land and Revenue department.

He claimed that land disputes in Shah Allah Ditta were emerging on a daily basis.

“In few instances we have seen that buyers failed to get the possession of the  farmhouse plots and land grabbers get  the chance to occupy it,” said the official.

“We are concerned but lack of zoning regulations is a lacuna that stands in the way of tackling land related trouble.”