JALALABAD (Pajhwok): Despite president’s order, major land-grabbers are yet to be dragged to court in eastern Nangarhar province over the past two years, Pajhwok Afghan News has learnt.
During his trip to Nangarhar in 2015, President Ashraf Ghani had ordered provincial officials to bring to justice — and even shoot to death — big land-grabbers.
Nangarhar civil society organisations, provincial council members and the general public assail local officials for failing to enforce the presidential orders against land-grabbers.
Although the provincial administration has launched many campaigns for prevention of land-grab and detained some individuals, no steps have bee taken so far to recover large areas of government-owned land.
In the past two years, Nangarhar courts have received 97 criminal and cases but none of them is related to land-grabbers, despite the fact that thousands of acres of government land has been usurped.
According to a report, around 150,000 acres of state land has been occupied illegally in Nangarhar, with some grabbers involved in usurping thousands of acres of public properties.
The report says 137,928 acres of land has been grabbed by 1,106 people in Lalpura, Momand Dara, Kot, Ghanikhel, Haska Mina, Kama, Dur Baba, Surkhrod, Chaparhar, Hesarak and other dist.
The local administration claims arresting hundreds of land-grabbers and recovering large areas of government properties. But ordinary people say big land-grabbers were still at large and none of the detainees had unlawfully seized for shelter even half an acre.
Public criticism and concerns
Provincial Council Secretary Zabihullah Zmarai called the action taken over land-grab as symbolic. Officials even did not knock at the door of big grabbers, he said.
Zmarai told Pajhwok Afghan News the symbolic campaigns led to the arrest of only those who had grabbed less than half an acre of land to build houses for themselves.
Another provincial council member, Syed Mehdi Pacha, also dismissed the local administration’s moves on the issue as cosmetic measures. He blasted the Nangarhar administration for initiating no steps to enforce Ghani’s instructions.
Mohammad Anwar Sultani, a civil society activist, questioned effectiveness of the campaigns conducted by provincial authorities. He said only poor and helpless people were detained while those who had grabbed hundreds of acres of land were still at large.
He said that provincial officials with land mafia at usurping public and private properties.
A tribal elder, Malak Shah Zaman, accused four influential families of being involved in land-grab, kidnaps, drug-trafficking and other security incidents in Nangarhar. He said organs countering these problems were influenced by the four families.
“A number of former commanders, powerful figures and officials are members of land mafia, supportig other grabbers. But no one has tried to stop them,” he said.
Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, told Pajhwok that a special commission was created for the prevention of land grabbing in the province following the president’s order.
He said hundreds acres of land was so far retaken from its seizers and hundreds of those involved in the illegal practice were arrested. Those arrested are including both high level and low level grabbers.
This commission performs its operations under the supervision of the governor and it yielded positive results, he said.
Security forces’ achievements
The provincial police headquarters says it has abed dozens of people in connection with land-grab and recovering thousands of acres of usurped land during the past two years.
Deputy police chief Abdul Jamil Tatamdarayee said they had been able to prevent attempts at grabbing more land in addition to launching campaigns after the president’s orders.
Police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal said police had been trying for prevention of land-grab in Nangarhar I compliance with orders from the central government.
He said 333 land-grabbers had been detained and 3,337 acres of government land recovered so far. However, Mashriqiwal did not provide details about the prosecution of major land-grabbers.
The justice department confirmed receiving 200 cases of land-grab. Of the 233 accused, only 18 were referred to the justice department.
Nasir Ahmad Khamosh, in charge of government’s real estate section at the Justice Department, verified the registration of 200 land-grab cases in the past two years. But police handed over only 18 grabbers to the department.
He said they had registered cases involving 1,200 acres of government land so far while investigations were underway into the remaining cases. Fifteen of the cases have been finalised and referred to court.
The Nangarhar Appellate Court, meanwhile, acknowledged receiving 107 cases, with 15 land-grabbers sentenced from two months to one year in jail terms.
Abdul Wali Qazizada, the appellate court head, told Pajhwok they had received 17 criminal land-grab cases in the solar year 1395. Thirteen accused were awarded jail terms from two months to one year. The rest of cases were rejected for lack of evidence.
Qazizada said 50 cases referred to the court were also decided during the year. Eight land-grab cases and 32 other legal cases were disposed of during the current (1396) solar year.
However, he explained they had not received any complaints so far against the individuals involved in grabbing more than one acre of land.