Cost of war: Residents say police ‘forcibly’ turning houses into check posts

SSP says police paying rent to all owners, denies claims of land grabbing.


Riaz Ahmad December 07, 2012

PESHAWAR:


People living around the suburban countryside of Peshawar district have accused the police of grabbing land by force and turning their houses into check posts.


Residents say the police have confiscated their property and turned them into check posts without offering any monetary compensation.

A resident of Mattani, Mukram Khan, said the police took over five acres of land in Drawazgai which he collectively owned with his two brothers. The property documents show the land was bought in 1998 for Rs0.5 million. Khan built a house for himself and gave a portion of the land to his sister-in-law.

“On September 21, 2011, policemen along with Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel came to our house and ordered us to vacate it. They threatened to deal with me with an iron hand if I didn’t comply,” said Mukram. “The next day they threatened to harm all my family members if we did not leave,” he further alleged.

Mukram said he shifted from his residence over fear of being branded as a militant or a supporter. On September 24, the police converted his house into a security checkpoint, he said.

“My brother and I have a large family of 26 members and we now have to reside in a rented house. My brother-in-law was also forced to leave, while my neighbour was taken into custody and later forced to sign an agreement allowing the police to use his property as a check post.”

DSP of the Mattani police station, Fazal-e-Mula said he is not aware of the “exact status of the property” as the checkpoint was established before his transfer to the area.

Mukram Khan

Not wanting to give up without a fight, Khan approached the former nazim of Mattani union council, Haji Asad Khan. He also sent applications to Peshawar Corps commander, the chief minister, inspector general of police (IGP), the Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court chief justices.

However, no action was taken against the perpetrators and the provincial assembly’s deputy speaker Advocate Khushdil Khan also made promises which were not kept, said Mukram.

Haji Asad said Capital City Police officer Liaquat Ali had requested the villagers to give land to the police to construct permanent security checkpoints.

Accepting the request, 2,420sq yards were given in Jani Garhi, on Frontier Road and in Arbab Tapu area where large check posts have been built by the police.

“We gave the police 1.5 acres of land, which was collectively owned by the village. It is unfortunate, however, that the police have confiscated houses from village residents to establish these posts,” Haji Asad said. “The government should purchase land instead of taking over houses by force.”

The check post established at Mukaram’s house is jointly manned by the Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary and the police. “He [Mukaram] is the only breadwinner for his family but does not even have his own house anymore,” Haji Asad said.

Disputing Haji Asad’s version of events, SSP Operations Imran Shah said the police is paying rent to all house owners and no land has been grabbed by force. “As far as I know, we have no such check post that has been established in a captured house.”

Another local, Malik Muhammd Idrees also has a similar story to tell. “I own a brick kiln on Frontier Road. One day former DSP Sajjad Khan came and told me he wanted to establish a check post in one corner of the property,” said Idrees, adding that he was happy to provide the police with a portion of his land.

However, the police later demolished his kiln completely, saying it could provide militants with a place to hide, he added. “It cost me around Rs6 million to build the kiln, but I am helpless as they are not listening to me. They have virtually captured the entire plot, without giving me any sort of compensation.”

Mukram and Idrees are not the only victims. The police have established check posts in Badabher and Sarband areas in a similar fashion.

The house of a proclaimed offender was converted into a check post in Sarband, while several homes in the Speen Qabar area in the jurisdiction of Badabher police have also been confiscated.

The Ghaziabad check post where SP Khurshid Khan was killed by militants on October 15 is being disputed and the owner has approached the court.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Co-Chairperson Kamran Arif said the practice of land grabbing is entirely illegal. “Forcing someone out of their house into homelessness in a criminal offence and a violation of basic human rights,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2012.

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