The deputy commissioners of all four districts in Rawalpindi division comprising Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal and Jhelum have published public advertisements calling upon the citizens to identify benami properties.
A benami transaction is when a property is held by one person while the consideration for it has been provided or paid for by another person. It includes transactions that are carried out under fictitious names or when the person providing the consideration is not traceable.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, late last month, had told all deputy commissioners to identify benami properties in their districts within a month.
Similarly, the Punjab Revenue Department and the office of the Registrar of Properties have started sending notices to owners of assets registered under fictitious names. The district authorities have also started inquiring secretly about ownership status of properties worth billions of rupees, which were registered in names of people who could not afford to buy such assets.
The public advertisements bear a message from the deputy commissioners stating that the government has declared ownership of benami assets and properties under fictitious names as illegal. The offence would lead to confiscation of the property and imprisonment of up to seven years. People have been advised to inform the district authorities about benami possessions while warning them against false reporting which bears imprisonment up to five years. The advertisement assures of keeping names of informers confidential.
Meanwhile, in compliance with the land reforms programme of PM Imran Khan, the provincial government of Punjab has decided to retrieve all public land as outlined in master plan chalked out in 1956.
The government would recover all state land and holdings of public interest as per the demarcation given in the maps dating back to 1956 when the country got its first constitution with Prime Minister Chaudhry Muhammad Ali and Iskander Mirza as the first president.
The incumbent government, for the purpose of demarcation, would set up special teams at tehsil, district and division levels comprising of officials from revenue and procurement departments as well as district administration officers.
As per the land reforms programme, all land holdings marked for public interest including passages, drains, nullahs, graveyards, lakes, fodder houses, water reservoirs and canals would be retrieved. As an alternative, however, occupants of the said land holdings will have to pay compensation to the federal government on the current market values. The occupants failing to pay the market values for public land would see an anti-encroachment operation after which the land would be put on auction.
Punjab Parliamentary Secretary for Revenue Adnan Chaudhry while talking to The Express Tribune confirmed about the development and said that decision has been taken in light of the advice by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Based on the plan, funds generated from the retrieval or auction of the occupied land would be spent on developmental projects.
The provincial authorities are expected to start the demarcation process from the next week for which master plan maps of 1956 have already been obtained.