KHOST CITY (Pajhwok): Findings by Pajhwok Afghan News show that about one thousand people including local powerful figures have usurped thousands of acres of government land over the past two decades in southeastern Khost province.
Former government agencies and officials have complete information about identities the land grabbers, but they have not taken any action against them.
Previous government investigated only 60 cases out of one thousand
According to documents and evidence obtained by Pajhwok, only 60 cases of land grabbers out of one thousand have been investigated by the previous government’s judiciary, while the rest of the cases remain untouched for unknown reasons.
A list of the accused was sent to the Khost appellate court and then to the provincial police headquarters for legal action following a letter from the Attorney General Office.
In the letter, Khost police officials had been asked to arrest the suspects and bring them to justice.
The grabbers usurp 40,000 acres of government land in Khost
Urban Development and Land Authority in Khost have no accurate data on the total area of land usurped, but some reports say that more than 40,000 acres of government land has been grabbed in the province.
The usurped lands belong to the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other government agencies.
Former government officials confirm state land grabbing
Eng.Khafizullah Shah Noori, former Khost agriculture director, said that around 500 acres of agricultural land belonged to his department has been usurped by local people in the province’s capital and some districts.
He told Pajhwok that during his tenure; he made formal requests to security organs of the province, particularly police, to take legal action against land grabbers, but they took no action.
For instance, the Department of Agriculture and Livestock of Khost sent a list of usurpers to the police headquarters last year, but Noori said that he did not receive any response from police officials on the matter.
Former Khost provincial council head KafilRehan also said that no active steps had been taken to recover government lands from grabbers.
He said that during his nearly four years of service, government officials had only once destroyed a few houses in Qalamwal Mena area of Khost city, which had been built by locals on government land.
He asked the incumbent government to take firm steps on the matter and cancel long-term contracts of state lands signed during the previous government.
“So far no action has been taken in this regard. There are many areas in Khost and even townships are usurped. Serious measures should be taken to recover all lands of government departments from grabbers,” he said.
People: former government officials were reluctant to prevent usurpation of state lands.
Haji Jamal, Tani, a civil society activist and head of the shopkeepers’ council in Khost, accused official of the previous administration of failing to act against land grabbing.
He told Pajhwok the struggle of the previous provincial administration against land grabbers remained a victim of political expediency.
“The officials of urban development department have not yet carried out the necessary actions in this regard. Most of the lands grabbed by locals under one and other pretexts and created obstacles against welfare projects,” he added.
Will recover all grabbed lands: Khost governor
On the other hand, the current governor of Khost, Maulvi Mohammad Nabi Omari, told Pajhwok that he would reclaim all government lands in the provincial capital and districts as soon as possible.
He warned if land grabbers at any level did not voluntarily surrender the government land, they would be dealt with sternly.
“The grabbers should not force us to resort to military means. They have to hand over the land to the government, even if they have settled on it,” he said. Respectfully hand them over to the government and the government does not want to usurp people’s private lands and seize them.
Meanwhile, Khost police chief Maulvi Mehboob Shah Qanat told Pajhwok that he would take serious steps to reclaim all government lands that had been usurped by the people.
He said he would not allow anyone to usurp state lands in the province.
Hundreds of thousands of acres of state and private land have been usurped by people, powerful individuals and government officials across the country during the previous administration.
This report has been produced by Pajhwok and financially supported by UNDP and Denmark.