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Convict the corrupt if land grabbing is to stop.

Convict the corrupt if land grabbing is to stop Governmental authorities are among the major usurpers of public land. There are multiple ministries and government offices including the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption seeking to rein in administrative corruption but little has changed. Killid reporter Esmatullah Mayar investigates:

The High Office of Anti-Corruption and Oversight has sent at least 165 dossiers to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General's (AG) office in the last one year but no usurper has been punished.

Abdul Razaq in the High Office says 11 dossiers were sent to the AG's office. All cases relate to Herat and Nangarhar provinces; between four and six people are involved in each case.

Figures from a study by a parliamentary commission of investigation reveals 1.2 million jeribs of government land have been grabbed in different ways. Member of Parliament (MP) Mohammad Saleh Saljoki who is a member of the commission told Killid that shops, houses, markets and towns have been illegally constructed on the extorted lands. "A list of big and small usurpers has been prepared," he said. The commission has prepared the list jointly with the ministries of agriculture, justice, interior affairs, city development, the AG's office, high court and municipalities.

The list has not been shared with the media and the public despite calls in Parliament. MPs were told the list has not been finalised even though in October last year, the Office of Administrative Affairs, told Killid they have prepared a list of land grabbers in Kabul and the provinces.

Deputy head of the office, Najib Amin, said the names would be sent to the justice ministry and AGs office as directed by presidential decree number 45. "The extortion of the lands is a big challenge for the Afghan government. The decree has ordered the ministries of agriculture and interior to prepare a list of usurpers of public lands," he said.

Share the names

While Amin did not reveal any names, he said the Ministry of Agriculture has been assigned to hand over the list to the media.

Killid sought the views of the ministry but failed. However, director of the Kabul agriculture department, Hashmatullah Enayat, said with 330 new usurpers the list of land grabbers has spiraled to 18,000 people in Kabul. The parliamentary commission has identified 11 major usurpers who have together grabbed roughly 47,000 jeribs in Kabul.

Kabul Governor Abdul Jabbar Taqwa confirms the "graph of governmental lands' usurpation has climbed; action has not been taken against them (and) so they have become more courageous."

Meanwhile, the Kabul agriculture department claimed 7,303 jeribs have been restored from usurpers in six districts including Khaki Jabbar, Shakardara, Bagrami and Paghman.

Jawed Delawar, governor of Bagrami district, told Azadi Radio in an interview that the land grabbers have moved from Kabul city to Bagrami. "They have the support of government authorities," he insists. "We have failed in our duties; we make arrests but authorities release them."

On Dec 30, the National Assembly decided First Deputy Speaker Abdul Zahir Qadeer should be investigated for land grabbing after tens of residents in Nangarhar province filed complaints.

Senate Complaints Commission chief, Dr Zalmai Zabuli, said Qadeer has been accused of appropriating public land in the Khairabad area of Surkh Rod district, Nangarhar. Locals say the first deputy speaker has built a township on agricultural land. Qadeer refused to talk to Killid.

Situation in Herat

First the good news: Faqir Ahmad Bayangar, director of Herat Agriculture Department, said 4,500 jeribs of 110,000 jeribs misappropriated have been restored.

The bad news: Hajji Abdul Ghafoor, leader of the Alizai tribe in Shindand district, said Mohammad Salim Taraki, mayor of Herat has joined the ranks of usurpers. He has taken over 3,000 jeribs north of Islam Qala.

In May 2005, a delegation of Enayatullah Kamal, deputy AG, Abdul Rab Jamili, head of Judges Attorney office, Din Mohammad Quraishi, interrogator of Directorate of Crimes Investigation had probed land grabbing in Herat.

Ghafoor said the delegation had confirmed the poultry farms belonging to Taraki, the Herat mayor, are on government land. The mayor, however, told Killid: "I have the title deeds of the land. If any office wants, I can show it to them."

Fingers have been pointing also at Energy and Water Minister Ismail Khan. Azizullah Ludin, the chief of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption has accused the minister of grabbing land valued at several millions of dollars that belongs to the Majid Zabuli Foundation.

Ludin said Ismail Khan has occupied the house that belonged Zabuli, who was the founder of what became Afghanistan's central bank, Bank-i-Milli Afghanistan. "The dossier on the properties of Majid Zabuli has been prepared by eight ministries. The properties are in the control of Ismail Khan. What I can do is send the dossier to the AG's office," Ludin said in response to questions about the slow pace of justice in the much-publicised case.

The AG's office claims the dossier has not been received. Rahmatullah Nazari, deputy AG, said the court would have to prove if the land belongs to the government or usurped by Ismail Khan.

The Zabuli Foundation has also claimed the Ministry of Defence has usurped 117 jeribs in Kabul.

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Publication:Killid Weekly
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Jan 7, 2013
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