Encroachments galore in Pakistan

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world. At current level of population growth, Pakistan is expected to add about 3 million people each year throughout the period of 2015-2030. This pressure of population on land is further exacerbated by lack of transparency and accountability when it comes to land management in Pakistan.

Land corruption is widely prevalent in Pakistan. Largely, it afflicts general public in form of corrupt officials who seek bribe for day-to-day administrative tasks such as property transfer, plot registration, kickbacks for facilitating certain development work and massive encroachment on amenity land and open space in various parts of the country. In the city of Karachi alone, it is estimated that each year, over 3000 acres of government land is plagued by encroachment. Similarly, the land sector has consistently been reported as one of the most corrupt sectors by TI Pakistan’s annual reports. To prevent and counter corruption in such matters, Transparency International Pakistan has made persistent efforts for corruption free land governance system. Through its Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre, TI Pakistan has raised voice on behalf of the citizens who are victims or witness of corruption. Our intervention has led to successful resolution of number of encroachment and land grabbing related cases.

The most latest of these is action taken by the provincial government of Punjab. Recently, the ALAC Unit of TI Pakistan had received a complaint from Ms. Marium (name has been changed), a resident of Murree, who had informed TI Pakistan that Mr. Ahsan (name has been changed) is illegally erecting a house on the land that belongs to the government of Punjab. Since May 2008, the provincial government of Punjab had imposed a ban on all kinds of construction activity in the tehsil of Murree. On a further scrutiny of the complaint, TI Pakistan learnt that Mr. Ahsan who himself is a government officer had clearly abused his public office for a private gain.

Therefore, On June 4, 2016, TI Pakistan wrote a letter to Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr. Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharrif to seek government’s attention and action against the illegal settlement on state land in tehsil Murree. After successful intervention from TI Pakistan, the responsible town administrator had halted the work on the site, demolished the construction and retrieved the possession of state land.

Though efficaciously resolved, but this particular case also highlights the wider problem of massive encroachments and different forms of corruption in the land administration system in Pakistan. It is imperative that Pakistan puts improving land governance in its agenda as corruption in this sector carries an enormous cost for the overall developmental agenda of the country and directly affects the livelihood of its people. At the same time, it must also be noted that for such an accountable and transparent system to emerge; vigilant and responsible citizens like Ms. Marium are an indispensable part.

Resources:

United Nations Statistic Division. Population by age, sex and urban/rural residence: Demographic Yearbook. United States of America: UNdata.

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