ISLAMABAD, Feb 9: Haji Feroz, an Afghan national, came to Pakistan in the 70s due to poor security conditions in his country and built a plaza in I-8 Markaz, Islamabad. However, he later found his investment as well as family members unsafe and decided to go back to Afghanistan in October 2011.

"Unknown persons abducted his son Rehmat Afridi and asked him to sell out the plaza - Rehmat Centre - to pay them the ransom. Later, the kidnapers killed the victim and threw his body in a green belt at F-10. In order to save his other sons from the same fate, Mr Feroz sold out the plaza and left the country," said Fahad Ahmed, a property dealer in the area.

"Many people have been eliminated over land disputes and incidents of murder and kidnapping for land have become common, putting a question mark on the efficiency of the law enforcement agencies," he said.

According to sources, during the last five years as many as 2,000 FIRs were registered over land disputes in 16 police stations of the federal capital and most of the cases are under trial in the lower courts.

An official of the district courts requesting not to be named said: "Over 30,000 cases are under trial at the district level out of which 40 per cent (12,000) related to land disputes. On an average, 50 new cases are filed in the west circle and 35 in the east circle of the district courts each day."

Five years back when the district courts were not divided into circles, on an average 40 cases were filed every day but now an increase has been observed in land dispute cases. Within the last few years, land-related cases have increased by 30 to 40 per cent and the same is the ratio in Islamabad High Court and the Supreme Court because these cases are challenged in the upper courts, he said.

According to sources, even some prominent personalities were murdered over property disputes in the capital. On February 3, 2010, member of Law and Justice Commission and former Advocate General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sardar Mohammad Khan was shot dead in sector G-11/2. Later, it was disclosed that one Rohullah, the owner of a property worth billions of rupees, was allegedly involved in the murder of Mr Khan who had filed a case against him to vacate the property. The police later arrested the accused who had managed to flee the country.

The most well-known property-related murder was that of a security guard, Mohammad Fayyaz. His widow Shamraiza had accused a property tycoon of being behind her husband's killing. Later, the property tycoon paid Rs14 million to the widow and her four children to resolve the matter.

A police officer requesting not to be quoted said: "President Services Cooperative Housing Society, Salma Qureshi was murdered over the dispute of plots at E-11, on June 15, 2009, in her office located in a house at sector I-8/3 but still the police have failed to arrest the accused though everyone knows who was behind the murder."

According to the police, on September 28, 2009, in Haran Mera, three people were murdered and two injured while they were going to court for hearing of a case involving a land dispute in the limits of Koral police.

A police officer requesting anonymity said, "There were two rivals claiming the property in Zone V of the capital but later one of them died and now a new group, who is also participating in politics, is using its influence in the zone. Just three months back, there was an incident of firing near IB Housing Society and later an FIR was registered against 25 persons. In Zone II, another group is being used for occupying land. As all are influential so poor owners of the land cannot stand against them."

The reason behind the rising land-related crime is that value of property is continuously increasing in the capital. On the other hand, those already involved in crimes have started property business.

Besides, record of land could not be computerised despite announcements by the authorities so unregistered land called "Shamlat" has become another reason for the rising number of cases. "On the other hand, police officers also favour the accused persons due to which the only choice left for the victim is to forget the land," he said.

However, spokesman for the Islamabad capital territory administration claimed that they had been working on computerisation of the land record.

The land disputes can only be resolved if courts ensured early disposal of the cases giving no room to the mafias to continue occupying land, he said.

Inspector general of Islamabad police, Bani Amin while talking to Dawn claimed that whoever comes to his office gets justice. Strict action has been taken against officials who showed negligence in registering FIR of such cases. "Citizens can come to my office anytime and I will make sure that their problem is resolved," he said.

Member Senate standing committee on interior Col (retired) Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi said in Pakistan there was institutionalised corruption due to which police try to favour the land mafias.

Innocent persons have been deprived of their land. There is corruption in lower courts, district administration and the police due to which affected people never get justice. Many people after coming back from abroad have found their property occupied by land mafia and could not get justice from any forum, he added.

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