JALALABAD (Pajhwok): Due to former officials’ negligence and corruption, 2,427 acres of the Canal Department’s land in eastern Nangarhar province could not be retrieved from 1,147 grabbers, Pajhwok Afghan News has reliably learnt.
Land grabbed by individuals range from a few plots to tens of acres. The Canal Department has sent 28 official letters to security and judicial authorities in the past 14 years, seeking their support in reclaiming the grabbed land but these individuals could not be arrested nor the grabbed land recovered.
How much land of Canal Department is grabbed?
Available documents show that in the past 30 years nearly 3,000 acres of Canal Land out of total 27,000 acres has been grabbed. Over 550 acres of the grabbed land has been recovered while 2,427 acres still remain usurped and revenue from this land goes to private pockets.
Individuals grabbing the Canal Land are government officials, strongmen and common people. Common people have grabbed the land for residential purpose and have built homes on it.
Which part of Canal Land is grabbed?
According to documents, the land grabbing started from 1992, when an acre of land was grabbed for residential purpose and more than an acre land was grabbed for agriculture purpose.
The Canal land has been grabbed in Jalalabad, the provincial capital, Behsud, Sra Road, Ghanikhelo and Batikot districts, most grabbers consider the land as their ancestral property and claim they inherited them from their grandfathers.
Nangarhar Canal Land Department Head Mawavi Ghulam Rahman said all those who had encroached on the Canal Land were land grabbers.
Two large Internally Displaced Persons camps in Hadi Farm Camp and Shikh Mesi Camp are situated on Canal Land.
Former officials’ negligence and corruption
Current officials of Canal Department say in the past 20 years former officials did not prevent land grabbing but they facilitated the illicit practice.
They did not disclose the names of officials who did not cooperate in retrieving the grabbed land but said in the past four years 28 letters were sent to the Nangarhar Governor, Police Department and other relevant judicial authorities to help retrieve grabbed Canal land but they declined to cooperate.
Canal Department Head Mawlavi Ghulm Rahman told Pajhwok Afghan News: “According to my information in the past four years, 28 official letters were written to provincial government, police and intelligence departments but no action could be taken against land grabbers.”
How much land reclaimed
According to Canal Department, in the past two decades over 550 acres of Canal Land has been reclaimed at a time when grabbing was also underway.
Mawlavi Ghulam Rahman said at that time government writ was also limited and there was massive corruption in government departments due to which most grabbed land could not be reclaimed.
100 people arrested in connection with fresh land grabbing
Nangarhar Canal Department says that in the early days of the fall of the previous government and establishment of new administration, some opportunists tried to usurp canal related land but the land was recovered and some people also arrested in connection to its grabbing.
Mulavi Ghulam Rahman said that some people who had taken advantage of thte chaos during the fall of previous administration had recently built houses, markets and settlements on canal related land.
However, he said that they demolished the settlements, reclaimed the land and arrested around 100 people.
The detained people involved in land grabbing are currently held at Nangarhar police headquarters and a court would soon decide about their cases, he said.
Ghulam Rahman said the agriculture minister had directed him to work on a plan to recover all usurped lands in the Nangarhar related to canal and they can get help from the Green Unit if needed.
He said that there was no need for any judicial body to recover usurped lands of Nangarhar canal and the lands would be retaken based on present rules. Only cases with doubts go to judicial organs, so there is no need to refer the case of canal lands to courts because usurped lands are known, he said.
Hadi Farm and Sheikh Mesri refugee camps are also included in usurped areas which should be handed over again to Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation and Ministry of Urban Development according to the law, an action which is not taken so far.
However, residents of the camps say they do not claim ownership of the land, but have been relocated to the camp following direction of the former government due to conflicts at the time.
The camps are created after 1992 and thousands of houses have been constructed there. One of these camps is in Surkh Rod district and another in Behsud district of Nangarhar.
Muzammil, a resident of Hadi Farm, said, “I was born 28 years ago in Hadi Farm camp where I also married, I am a father now, but no one told us that the land is grabbed, we also did not reside here arbitrarily.”
Enayat Rahman, a resident of Sheikh Mesri camp, said that they did not built concrete houses, nor they had the ability to do so and have not claimed ownership of the land they live on.
He says whenever the government decides, they would leave the area but it is a responsibility of the government to provide us a shelter for living.
On the other hand, after the formation of the new government, most of officials of the former government are inaccessible for contact.
Pajhwok tried to get the opinion of Mohammad Basir Haqyar, director of Nangarhar Canal Department, among other former officials, but he did not respond.
In addition to the land of Nangarhar Canal Department, 1,106 people have been involved in grabbing 137,928 acres of government land in Rodat, Lalpora, Momandara, Kot, Ghani Khel, Haska Mena, Kama, Durbaba, Surkhrod, Chaparhar, Hesarak and some other districts of Nangarhar province.