–Digitisation plan in limbo owing to lack of data, issues of lands’ ownership
–PLRA spokesperson says digitisation not authority’s mandate, govt hasn’t assigned task either
LAHORE: World Bank (WB) has visited the Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA) in order to conduct a feasibility study of the plan to digitise urban land records, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to sources, the government was delaying digitisation of urban land records as the relevant data was scattered and there were issues of lands’ ownership as well.
“Owing to the construction of numerous plazas and residential flats in Lahore, it was becoming difficult for PLRA to gather the data because, in most of the cases, such as that of commercial plazas, every floor has a different owner.”
Same is the issue in densely populated areas of the provincial capital, like the Walled City, where small units – both residential and commercial – have been divided among families and so have different ownership.
Sources said that many places also lacked proper land records and registries whereas most among them were allotted to different families after partition and the record of such lands was not available anywhere.
“Previously, Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) and Urban Unit also tried taking up the task and later the PLRA requested the WB to prepare a feasibility report.”
They added that to undertake the digitisation of land records, the authority was being backed by prominent economic advisers and international financial agencies like the WB since 2015 but so far no progress could be made.
“Manual record keeping for the lands is marred by corruption and with a mandate of ending corruption in the country, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government should take up this task as a priority,” they said.
The rules used for rural lands were framed by the British and the same system was being run till date whereas no rules existed for the urban land records in Punjab and so far the new government has also not instructed PLRA to take up the digitisation of urban land, they said and added that PLRA had digitised the rural land records with the help of WB earlier.
Sources further mentioned that digitising the land records was an uphill task due to the resistance of the powerful mafia that rules the land record system in Pakistan. “The digitisation of land records would be the end of their aristocracy.”
“The team of World Bank visited Lahore to understand the types of land records which are being maintained in the urban areas. They visited for their own study and to see what kinds of land records are there in the city; however, they will be sharing their findings with us,” PLRA spokesperson Nadia told Pakistan Today.
She said the WB team understood the rural model of digitisation but the urban one was different and all dimensions were to be explored for urban land digitisation.
“Digitisation of urban land is not the mandate of PLRA and the government hasn’t told us to do so as of yet either.”
PLRA’s mandate is to maintain the record as per international standards but we cannot start any digitisation work till assigned, she said. Speaking of the expenses needed to digitise urban land, she said the budget would be in billions because that of rural land cost about Rs11 billion.
“The first step before digitisation would be to gather the scattered data by conducting an aggressive survey which would be an uphill task. The team of the WB is eager to work on this project,” she said, adding, however, it depended on the government whether it wants to get it done.
”The project will be in the greater interests of the public,” Nadia concluded.