Developers crush rights in land grab rush

Published February 17, 2010

Top builders were reportedly found guilty of forcibly acquiring land for their projects by misusing the police and revenue departments and through their private force using illegal means. - File photo
ISLAMABAD At least three leading property developers have allegedly acquired more than 29,650 kanals of public and private land in and around the federal capital through illegal means and misuse of land revenue act and by committing serious violations of human rights and killing innocent citizens.

A conservative estimate based on about 42 complaints suggests that the land developers have illegally occupied more than 13,296 kanals of government land commonly known as 'shamlat' and around 10,786 kanals of land owned by individuals and government departments through 'private militias', besides getting 5,568 kanals of state land transferred to private parties through manipulated awards in violation of rules and regulations.

The revelations have been made in the report of a judicial inquiry conducted by District and Sessions Judge Mazhar Hussain Minhas and submitted to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It puts on record scenes of land grabbing seen only in Indian films. It exposes cold-blooded operations conducted by Bahria Town, Defence Housing Authority and Habib Rafique to deprive hundreds of people and the state of valuable land, in connivance with police, revenue authorities and even elements in the lower judiciary.

Going through the 115-page report based on accounts of the victims and eyewitnesses makes one shiver at the thought there appeared to be no law as the land grabbers took occupation of land with complete impunity to make a fortune while legal owners were killed or evicted from their property and their heir implicated in false cases to remain behind bars for years and then forced to sell their remaining property at whatever prices offered by the land mafia.

And the operations spread over many years did not deprive only individuals of their lawful possession but also some equally powerful housing societies and even the state as the government authorities that were supposed to protect lives and property of the common man. A case of state institutions becoming part of the land mafia!

In some incidents even police officials accompanied employees of Bahria Town for taking over possession of land. They unleashed a reign of terror on land owners. Those who resisted forcible occupation of their land were implicated in false cases, the report noted.

At another place, the judicial report said that it was most shocking to observe that the land mafia got 7,405 kanals and 12 marlas of land in village Sihala and village Rawat in favour of DHA through two separate decrees passed by the then civil judge 1st class, Islamabad, without hearing legal owners.

The report said the top builders were found guilty of forcibly acquiring land for their projects by misusing police and revenue department and through their private force using illegal means around pockets of land in different villages.

The Land Acquisition Collector fixed the rate of compensation much less than the prevailing market rate due to which the owners did not want to relinquish possession of their property, but DHA forcibly took possession through their security staff, the report said.

The owners who resisted the forcible occupation of their land were implicated in criminal cases and through police they were forced to surrender the land. Subsequently, the DHA entered into agreements with M/S Patro-Trade Pvt Ltd and Bahria Town for securing the possession of the acquired land. Bahria Town by using its own manpower forcibly occupied the land which was not even acquired by DHA. Islamabad police, particularly Sihala police station, was completely under the influence and control of Malik Riaz Hussain, the chairman of Bahria Town.

At one place, the inquiry report says, some police officials acted as personal employees of Malik Riaz and instead of performing their lawful duty implicated innocent people in false and baseless cases.

Like police, the revenue department was “completely under the thumb of Malik Riaz Hussain”. Revenue officers of his choice are posted in areas where housing projects of Bahria Town are located and they are blindly following the orders of Malik Riaz.

The report said that Imtiaz Pervez Janjua had admitted that he was posted as tehsildar Islamabad in May 1998. Revenue officials of Rawalpindi and Islamabad are committing illegalities with impunity and are not paying any heed even to court orders.

It is a matter of great concern, says the report, that through mutations of 'Tark-e-Qabza' for which there is no provision in the Land Revenue Act 1967, shamlat (common land) has been transferred to DHA, Bahria Town and Al-Hamra Pvt Ltd and Al-Hamra Avenues. It goes on to state that through this illegal mechanism, the real owners have been deprived of thousands of kanals of shamlat land in Sihala, Rawat, Kotha Kalan and other villages of the twin cities.The report said that those involved in the illegal business also adopted, in connivance with the revenue staff, the technique of purchasing shamlat from 'Khana Kasht' (land record) from the owners in excess of their due shares.

The report said that besides the acquisition of land in 2001 and 2002, DHA has acquired land measuring 5,665 kanals in 18 villages of district Rawalpindi. All the awards were announced by the then DDO Revenue, Rawalpindi, Mohammad Abid.

In the awards, requirements of section 5 and 5-A of the Land Acquisition Act 1984 were dispensed with by the Land Acquisition Collector who admitted that under the pressure of acquiring agency he announced the aforesaid awards urgently without waiting for assessment reports.

The report also said that 7,405 kanals and 12 marlas of land in village Sihala and village Rawat had been transferred by the land mafia in favour of DHA through two separate decrees issued in August 2005 by civil judge Islamabad Huidayatullah Shah.

The order passed by the civil judge is void in the eyes of law and invasion of the rights of the original owners. In fact it is a naked trampling of the valuable rights of the land owners committed by the land mafia in active participation with and connivance of the judicial officer.

The report said “When original owners are not authorised to use shamlat for any purpose except for the purpose it was reserved, how the plaintiff being a 'Malik Qabza' can utilise it for the amenities of its housing projects, like parks and roads.

A witness -- Lt Col (retired) Abdul Qadir, Chairman Tuhaffaz Tehreek Zamindaran, Potohar -- told the inquiry officer that the developers had a private force under the command of a retired commando officer named Capt Shahid. By using that force they started forcibly occupying land of the people.

He also said that the DPO Rawalpindi had taken a divisional forest officer of south division Rawalpindi to a police station and subjected him to harassment when he complained that government land had been occupied by Bahria Town.

Malik Riaz Hussain, the chairman of Bahria Town, in his testimony before the inquiry judge, Mazhar Hussain Minhas, said he did not pay Rs2.8 million to Raja Arshad in a Rs100 million deal because the seller did not provide possession of land in question. Mr Malik's statement, as mentioned in the inquiry report, largely pertains to his version regarding a plot of land owned by Eden Housing Society. The inquiry report did not contain any other statement of Mr Malik regarding some serious allegations of land acquisition levelled by a few others who also appeared before the inquiry.

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