Dozens of property dealers protested outside the Lahore Development Authority office in Johar Town on Saturday over a new initiative to check so-called ‘double exemption plots’.
While the property dealers decried the initiative as a new avenue for officials to demand bribes for property transfers, as well as an additional bureaucratic delay to already cumbersome transfer procedures, LDA officials defended it as a measure to check corruption among property dealers.
LDA officials said that when the authority acquires some land, it compensates the owner with land elsewhere. In Johar Town, for example, owners of 10 kanals were given three kanals. Often, LDA officials fail to record the transfer at the Land Revenue Department, whether because of corruption or inefficiency. The original owner can then get a new registry for the plot from the Revenue Department and then sell the plot to someone else, who can then claim land in compensation from the LDA. The officials said that this process can be repeated and the government sometimes ended up giving out more land than it acquired. These plots which the LDA acquires on multiple occasions are called double exemption plots.
Several members of the Johar Town Property Dealers Association (PDA) gathered outside the LDA office and chanted slogans denouncing Director for Land Development-1 (DLD) Muhammad Imran Raza Abbasi after learning that the authority was rechecking files for double exemption plots.
LDA Director General Ahad Khan Chema later banned the issuance of urgent challans, which takes about a week, for all property transactions in Johar Town for two months. Officials said that this was because most double exemption transfers occurred in urgent challans. The issuance of routine challans, which takes about 20 days, will continue.
PDA General Secretary Chaudhry Shafqat said that the record for Johar Town had already been checked twice and the latest initiative was simply a scheme for officials to line their pockets.
He said that the DLD had called the protesters to his office for talks, but they refused as they believed he was corrupt. He said they had no faith in the LDA director general either. He said that they would protest against the DLD on Monday and would continue to protest till he was transferred. He said that property dealers elsewhere in the city had been invited to join the protest.
DLD Abbasi said that the protests would not stop the checking of files for double exemption plots. He said that he had also reinstated the requirement that the owners of plots be physically present at the transfer.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2012.
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