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Land grabbing and the plight of commoners

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By Mansoor Faizy-KABUL: Land mafia in this already troubled country has been widening its influence, day by day. The victims here also are the unfortunate civilians with no political backing. When their lands come under the attack of land mafia the hapless civilians cannot do anything but to see their lands being usurped. Similar is the situation of low profile government employees. When their plots were being usurped they started hue and cry. The incident took place in Helmand province where some powerful government officials swooped on their plots. Those whose plots are under threat, they took to the streets to give vent to their anger in Kart-i-Lagan area of Lashkargah, the provincial capital, while shouting that influential figures had grabbed their plots by force. A protestor, Habib Kherandiash, said that his elder brother’s plot has been usurped by some big guns in the provincial government. He said the powerful officials started constructing walls around the plots at nighttime in an attempt to grab the land. The poor government employees are left with nothing but to protest.

“We want the central government to take notice of the land grabbing to protect poor government workers from being exploited,” Kherandaish said.

Nevertheless, the high ups rejected the allegations of the protesters and said the land belonged to the government and it would be distributed by the municipality among deserving people.

Apart from the chorionic insecurity and economic problems, life in Afghanistan has been affected by the ever growing corruption which is rife among bureaucrats. This not the first ever incident where people have taken to the streets to condemn land grabbing but it is something which is too rife in across the country and thousands of acres of state-owned and private lands have been usurped. Many of the sprawling townships have been built on grabbed lands. Looking at the government departments, one smells easily what is happening there as corruption is endemic—all are involved according to their capacity with exception of a few. The higher the post is and the higher his/her corruption capacity is and the lower the rank is and the lower corruption capacity is. A survey conducted by Afghan Independent Corruption Watchdog says the usurpation of state owned and private lands have been a significant problem over the past decade. The survey adds that less than 34 percent of lands in Afghanistan have been legally registered while the remaining lands are vulnerable to usurpation.

Besides that the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee issued a report in 2014 that says: “nearly a quarter of a million hectares of land has been usurped during the last 10 years.” Since there is lack of political will to fight land grabbing which is why it has been plaguing instead of declining. Endemic corruption, lack of administration reforms, fragile system of law enforcement, widening influence of big guns, and culture of impunity, are some of the factors that spurred land grabbing. After the formation of the National Unity Government, many citizens pinned high hopes on the new administration, however the government yet to have show its performance to live up to the expectations of the general public. During their election campaigns both the leaders made taller promises with the nation, but it’s worth reminding to them that well done is a million times better than well said.