Post floods land management

Pakistan still languishes in an era of the stone-age Land Management System (LMS).

Moin M Fudda August 29, 2010
Post floods land management

Living in the modern age of computerisation and digital identification, Pakistan still languishes in an era of the stone-age Land Management System (LMS). The current land administration system aims at land revenue assessment and tax collection for fiscal purposes. The system is structured on the traditional land registers and cadastral maps on paper, and their maintenance is mainly dependent on local land administrators, the so-called “Patwaris”. Although the local administrator reports all changes on land rights and boundaries of land parcels to the higher government authorities, the maintenance and quality of these registers has always been questionable. The limited accessibility and reliability of these records restricts the operational and legal usefulness for securing land ownership as well as for carrying out reliable planning and development activities. It is worth mentioning here that the privatisation programme of Pakistan has also suffered from this lack of clean title and property rights. The government had sold to Etisalat 26 per cent shares of country’s telecom operator in July 2005. According to a news item of June 18th, 2010 due to a dispute over the legal transfer of land and property titles, the buyer has been holding back payment of about $800 million of the $2.6 billion PTCL’s privatisation proceeds.

The LMS will now be put to its ultimate test by the nature in the form of floods of the century. When the floods recede, one of the most serious after-effects will crop up in the shape of land grabbing and fake demarcations of boundaries washed away by wanton waters. While in Punjab and Sindh, the computerisation is in bits and pieces, most of the land record in province Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was still being maintained manually. In cases where the record has been computerised, the land demarcations can be verified by retrieving the data but it would be next to impossible to stop land grabbing of areas with damaged or lost records.

The land record maintained in flood affected areas of Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa needs to be preserved to meet the eventualities in any future disaster of this magnitude. The problem which will pop up immediately after the water recedes would be the demarcation of land erased by the flood water which , would be difficult to locate, especially in case of small holdings, in all the affected provinces. Venal minions of revenue department will have hey days in connivance with unscrupulous and conscienceless land-grabbers.

A 'do or die' situation will evolve for the farmers whose livelihood mainly hinges on the small tracts of land they hold. Before starting the rehabilitation and resettlement process, the revenue departments have got to act at meteoric speed to remove these fears and take immediate concrete steps so that land grabbers find it extremely difficult to rip off the already devastated farmers with their piercing fangs and talons.

One of the major problems that will emerge in Sindh is that in the 'kachach' area where most of the people move from one place to another without having any proper land ownership documents. The government must take this task seriously and provide these people some documents to confirm their legitimate ownership. However, the areas that are fortunate enough to have been safe from floods, it is expected that the land record would be safe. So, no excuses should be allowed to play for drawing fake lines of demarcation.

To ensure transparency in the entire process of land demarcation, government must constitute committees consisting of peoples’ representatives, retired judges and social workers are known for their honesty, integrity and uprightness.

In case, the respective provincial governments failed to rise to this humongous challenge thrown by the nature, there will be deluge of civil litigation, feuds and murders down the road. The judiciary and civil administration is already over burdened. An injudicious and myopic handling of the land record phenomenon will unfold into a situation that our generations will rot in the courts to seek justice from, and which will remain will-o-the-wisp for the common man for centuries.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2010.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ