ISLAMABAD: Irrespective of a vicious but coordinated print, electronic and social media campaign aimed at his integrity, a defiant Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi, who is spearheading the anti-encroachment drive across country, has vowed to take the campaign against land mafia and their collaborators to the next level.
The minister has become famous for his late-night raids at various police stations and ordering the release of innocent inmates and issuing directions for improving facilities at police stations. He has also attracted attention for leading the anti-encroachment drive in the federal capital – a practice no former interior minister ever dared to take.
In an exclusive interview with Pakistan Today, Afridi said that his detractors had mistaken the government’s resolve against law violators and mafia groups.
“It seems that the mafia groups and their handlers have badly mistaken the resolve and commitment of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government with the previous corrupt regimes. We are not here to succumb to these pressure tactics. We are not here to strike an underhand deal. We are here to cleanse Pakistan of these mafias. We are here to uphold the rule of law. This anti-encroachment operation would be taken to the next level. We will take this operation to its logical conclusion come what may,” said the defiant minister.
When asked to comment over the threats being hurled by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Rizvi regarding Asia Bibi case, the minister said that the judiciary freely takes its decisions according to the law.
“The government functions under the Constitution which is in accordance with the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah. Whatever the court verdict would be, the state machinery would follow it. The court verdicts are to be respected by all and are also binding for all of us. However, no one should preempt the court verdict,” the minister said.
The minister added that rather than falling to emotions on such a sensitive issue, the nation must remember how strongly the PTI government had pursued the blasphemous caricatures issue recently and finally resolved it.
Afridi, who comes from a middle-class family based in Kohat, while sitting at his official residence, took Pakistan Today to a survey of his residence, saying that he had renovated his official residence on his own expense.
The media attack had stirred a storm on social media as people know Afridi for his personal integrity and clean track record. However, the vilification campaign died soon as Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) took notice and told the electronic media for airing a public apology for airing fake news.
When asked to comment over the recent media campaign aimed at his integrity, Afridi while sitting on a couch, laughed off his detractors and said that mafia groups active against the anti-encroachment had mistakenly provoked his resilience and determination.
Afridi also shared with Pakistan Today the receipts of the furniture, wallpapers and panels purchased by his spouse from a local market which cost over Rs400,000.
“They thought we would succumb to media pressure. But they are mistaken. They forgot that we strived under Imran Khan for making Pakistan a country free from mafias. We are here to stay and we are here to deliver. No nefarious design can deter the government’s campaign against law violators,” he said in a firm voice.
When asked if the media targeting had ignited his personal grudge against the mafias he was talking about, Afridi said that personal grudges have no place in good governance and the state matters are to be dealt according to the laws.
The minister said that the anti-encroachment operations were being conducted on the direction of the Supreme Court and were a part of the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan who wants to see Pakistan cleaned from all sorts of mafias.
“Pakistan is not going to be a ‘soft state’ anymore. Form now onwards, the law would prevail and gangs and gangsters would be taken to task. This campaign is not against any particular party, ethnic or linguistic group. This is against a mindset. This is aimed at law violators who are a part of all parties, all cities and all ethnic groups,” said the minister.
When asked why the anti-encroachment drive had slowed down during the past three weeks or so, Afridi said that the government is not working blindly and the anti-encroachment drive is being undertaken in phases and every new phase is started after homework is done.
OPERATION TO TAKE A NEW TURN FROM TODAY:
The civic authorities are set to launch a new phase of the anti-encroachment drive from today in the federal capital. Well-placed sources have informed Pakistan Today that the new phase of the operation would be launched to clear over 600 kanals of land of the 21 kilometre-long River Korang presently under illegal possession of several individuals.
According to the report of the Survey of Pakistan, the influential land mafia has also diverted the path of the Korang River to occupy more of the riverbed passing through the revenue limits of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and Rawalpindi district.
A report prepared by the Survey of Pakistan on the directions of the apex court found that 119.35 kanals of the encroached land falls within the limits of Mouza Mohra Noor, 35.76 kanals jointly in Phulgran and Kot Hathiyal, 75.25 kanals in Mouza Kot Hathiyal, 59.87 kanals jointly in Mouza Shahpur and Kot Hathiyal, 96.91 kanals in Mouza Shahpur, 156.99 kanals in Mouza Phulgraan and 6.68 kanals in Mouza Malata Dakhili Phulgran.
According to the survey report, all these Mouzas fall within the revenue limits of the ICT while another 19.8 kanals of the encroached landfalls in the limits of Mouza Salketar, 7.85 kanals jointly in Mouza Manga and Salketar and 32.17 kanals of land in Mouza Manga. These Mouzas fall within the revenue limits of district Rawalpindi, according to the survey.
The report said that the extent of Korang River was surveyed by the Survey of Pakistan in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court (SC). Keeping in view the sensitive nature of the job, the authorities consulted the original revenue record/Masavies of the year 1956-57, 1905-07 and 1884-85 of Mouzas of Malpur (CDA acquired land), Mohra Noor, Kot Hathiyal, Shahpur and Phulgraan falling within ICT limits and Mouzas Salketar and Manga of Tehsil Murree, district Rawalpindi. The survey found several buildings/structures/plots in possession of individuals falling within the limits of Korang River.
The report said that the position of Korang River appearing in the original revenue record of 1984-85, 1905-07 has been found consistent with the original revenue record of 1956-57. “It has been found from the fresh survey of Korang River that there is a huge difference in existing limits of the river and position of the river according to the original revenue record. Deviation in the position of Korang River near Rawal Lake is more as compared to the north (upstream) of the river.
The total encroached area in the extent of Korang River (21 kilometres) starting from Rawal Lake to Mouza Salketar of Rawalpindi district (upstream) is 613.49 kanals. The report says that these encroachments have been made mostly after 2004.
While most of the affectees of the ongoing anti-encroachment operation have argued that the land under their possession lies out of River Korang and they had purchased it legally, the CDA officials maintain that the operation is being aimed at clearing the bed of Korang River.
Though the operation had been launched during the past week without any progress on the site and due to the lack of required staff and heavy machinery, the operation was stopped halfway.
However, a full-fledged operation is likely to be launched from today and all preparations are being made in this regard.