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Land grabbing is an age-old malpractice whereby a person or group of people illegally occupy a land that does not belong to them. In most cases, these fraudulent people are also able to provide fake sales and rent agreements as plausible evidence of their possession. Land grabbing in Pakistan is a serious problem plaguing the property sector, though strict action and comprehensive mechanisms have been put in place to prohibit it. Let’s understand the problem of land grabbing in Pakistan and see what policy mechanisms have been put in place.
Land Grabbing In Pakistan
When we talk about land grabbing it is easier to identify who the real victim will be; someone whose land has been taken in illegal possession. However, in the eyes of the law, the situation becomes a lot more tricky if a buyer of property has not checked with the official department to whom the property (they wish to buy) actually belongs to. In this case, the wronged buyer is also considered complicit to land grabbing.
For this reason, the Supreme Court has taken a strong stance against the qabza mafia, or land grabbing mafia, and introduced a strong against land grabbing in Pakistan, by introducing a mechanism in addition to the Illegal Dispossession Act, 2005.
Law Against Land Grabbing In Pakistan
In a first the SC decided in 2016 that the decision regarding an instance of land grabbing will be taken purely on the basis of complaint, and be given prison time for up to 10 years. While this means that the victims just need to prove that they have been wronged, it also means that if a buyer doesn’t check before buying property and a case is filed against them, then they can also face prison time.
This is because the law clearly states that there are no preconditions to this complaint, as the judgement published in a leading daily reads; “In any proceedings initiated under the Illegal Dispossession Act, 2005, the deciding issues would be: whether the offence against a lawful owner or occupier, as described in the complaint, has indeed taken place and whether it is the accused who has committed it without any lawful authority.”
This completely eliminates the need for bringing previous record of the accused to court, as in previously when it was mandatory to prove that the accused belonged to qabza mafia. In most cases this could not be proved as the land grabbers who would fraudulently transfer property to their name, would do so through a third party – making it difficult to prove that the person had carried out a criminal act. The only way out of this situation was if the accused was an acknowledged land grabber, and this offered little respite to the victims.
With this new policy mechanism, the process for punishing the land grabber has become easier, and in favor of the victim. Other measures to curb the problem are:
Citizen Portal To Address Land Grabbing In Pakistan
The incumbent government under Prime Minister Imran Khan has established a strict stance against and grabbing, so much so that a separate complaint category has been introduced in the Pakistan Citizen Portal (PCP).
This will allow citizens to lodge a complaint if their land is being grabbed or alert the authorities if they see someone else’s land or state land being encroached upon. In an official notification, PM Khan said that all provincial chief secretaries should arrange meetings with heads of the departments concerned, development authorities, commissioners/RPOs and DCs/DPOs to make them aware of the many ways land grabbing/encroachment is carried out, and how to counter it.
Moreover, the portal will serve as a platform for gaining all insights into the matter, and therefore, devising policies and putting in place corrective mechanisms. PM Khan has also announced that quarterly reviews should also be conducted to ensure the problem is properly addressed.
While the government is doing a lot to ensure that your lands remain safe from any possible encroachment, there are various ways you can ensure the same.
Ways To Prevent Land Grabbing
These are the ways you can prevent your undeveloped land from being encroached or being brought under possession by a third party, wrongfully.
Check Your Property Before Buying
It is absolutely essential that you are thorough in your research, and before buying new property check all available records to see who actually possesses the property you are about to buy. If you are unsure about the buying process, you can hire a lawyer from the get go who will check the authenticity of property papers and carry out the transfer of property properly.
Assert Possession Of Your Property
After you’ve bought the property, it is absolutely essential that you mark it as your own property. This can be done through building a boundary wall all around your land. In addition to this, a lot of people also build a small storage unit, which can also be extended to your main construction unit when you decide to build on this land.
Apart from this, you can also build a garden within the fortified walls, or hire a security guard as a round-the-clock keeper. If your property is located in an area that is notorious for land grabbing instances, it is best to be in continuous contact with the sponsor of the housing society. This will ensure that the official stakeholders recognize you and will prioritize the safety of your property.
Keep Your Documents Safe
This is an essential prerequisite, however, a lot of people run callous when it comes to selling the property or getting their documents photocopied. Whenever you think of selling, ensure that you do not share the official allotment letter with a lot of people, and even if you do, it should be properly mentioned that this is for selling reasons. Using a dark red pen, draw lines from across the two diagonals of your document and blur all important details.
Moreover, use a CamScanner or your personal photocopier/printer for creating any (hard or soft) copies of your official documents, to avoid any duplication of your documents.
Illegal possession or encroachment of private land is prohibited by law, and therefore should be discouraged at all levels. If you come across any information on encroachment in any area, you should immediately alert the authorities via PCP.
What do you think can be done against land grabbing in Pakistan? Write to us at email@example.com. Also, keep checking Pakistan’s largest property blog, Zameen Blog for the latest information on Pakistan.