Auqaf Department to come hard on land grabbers

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Punjab Auqaf and Religious Department is taking steps to free its lands from the grabbers around the province which had been occupied in different ways in past, Pakistan Today has learnt reliably.

A source in department revealed that newly appointed Auqaf Secretary Nawazish Ali has ordered the estate wing to submit the record of all the lands owned by the department and ordered to maintain record of the land grabbed by mafias.

“According to record which was maintained earlier, the department has more than 76,000 acre land in the province from which around 7,000 acre land is illegally occupied by people” sources said, adding that only 4,000 acre land is occupied out of the total grabbed land in Shorkot Tehsil of Jhang District.

He said that the department has completed a survey of 15 districts in this regard and a report will be presented to the secretary after completion of survey. The survey is expected to be completed within current month.

The issue of grabbing state property or other land is not a new thing in Pakistan. It has been observed that people across the province are involved in occupying land of different departments for many decades. It is also observed that most of the time the land grabbers are backed by influential and political persons.

The source claimed that the department has been issuing notices to those grabbers but instead of releasing the land, they move to court against the department.

“The grabbers have started claiming the ownership of land under Land Reform Act while the land of Auqaf Department can never be transferred or sold to anyone,” he added.

An official seeking anonymity told Pakistan Today that the department had conducted several surveys in the past but the record of total land with department and the land occupied by the grabbers could not be maintained. He admitted that land mafias and grabbers belong to influential persons, mostly from bureaucracy and politics.

However, he claimed that this new move will be proved fruitful as the department is working more vigorously. He said that this illegal grabbing is causing a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer annually.