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Large swaths of state land 'usurped' east of Kabul

Large swaths of state land 'usurped' east of Kabul

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On
Dec 12, 2017 - 23:06

KABUL (Pajhwok): Thousands of acres of state-land allocated for development projects and Kabul’s eastern cemetery has been allegedly usurped by powerful individuals and parliament members.

According to government officials who are aware of the issue, the usurped land in Bagrami district of Kabul province has been allocated for townships, educational facilities and industry by the then government back in 1971.

At the time, the land was divided into three portions and 4,500 acres of land was allocated for township, universities and industry.

Gosfan Dara area:

The three portions area makes 22,500 acres which have been officially devoted to specific purposes. One portion of the land is situated in Gosfan Dara area and is allocated for mega uplift projects, but the area has been under greater focus of land grabbers.

Government sources about the land-grabbing issue in Gosfan Dara told Pajhwok Afghan News more land had been grabbed in Gosfandara than known.

They claimed land in the other two portions had also been encroached upon on a large scale.

Gosfan Dara is a far-flung village of Bagrami, 20 kilometers east of Kabul City.  

Scope of the usurped land in Gosfan Dara

Bagrami district chief Ahmad Shafai Solamal said the government in 2010 decided to construct a teacher’s, a refugee’s townships, National Mining Institute, Industrial City and general cemetery for the residents of eastern Kabul.

But as after 2010, the area gained economic importance and the process of usurpation began, he said, adding so far 4,474.5 acres of land had been grabbed.

“Some part of this area has been occupied by displaced people who came here from other provinces due to war and insecurity, but a huge part of these swaths have been grabbed by powerful individuals,” he said.

Independent Land Authority

Ghulam Hussain Rahmani, spokesman for the Independent Land Authority (ILA), said the state-owned land was surveyed and divided into three portions back in 1971. The portions were named 1421, 1422, 1426 and the government in 2010 decided to implement development projects in Gosfan Dara area on portion 1426.

Under the plan, 1,000 acres land was allocated for construction of a refugee township, 250 acres for National Mining Institute and 124.5 acres for grand cemetery. Orders for preparation of designs and maps were also issued, according to Rahmani.

“Unfortunately, the Gosfan Dara area was grabbed by corrupt, powerful, and illegally armed individuals to whiten their back money.”

He said copies of the Presidential Orders No. 45 had been sent to the Interior Ministry, the Asmaee Zone Police Headquarters, ALA and other institutions. The order asks these authorities to prevent further land grabbing in Gosfan Dara, but no efforts have been made in this regard so far.

Without naming the land grabbers, Rahmani said local influential individuals and some MPS who enjoyed impunity were involved in the land grabbing.

Kabul Governor Mohammad Yaqoub Haidari said over 4,000 acres of land had been grabbed in Gosfan Dara and added refugees who repatriated had constructed homes and schools on the state land.

He said some individuals including lawmakers had grabbed land in Gosfan Dara and sold that to repatriates.

Alleged land grabbers

A source at the Kabul Kand Authority, who wished not to be named, said “real land grabbers” were Allah Gul Mujahid, a lawmaker from Kabul province, Sher Ali Ahmadzai, a Kuchi tribe representative in the lower house, Akbar Stanikzai, a lawmaker from Logar province, and Haji Munjai, the brother of lawmaker Sher Ali Ahmadzai.

According to the source, these individuals were openly and covertly involved in the land grabbing. “The government often tries to retake the grabbed land, but the land grabbers respond with armed resistance,” the source said.

The source alleged lawmaker Mullah Tarakhel had grabbed 17.5 acres of land in the 1421 and 1422 portions and had constructed a township named Senator Janat Gul Khan “with the help of duplicate documents.”

The source went on to say that former president Hamid Karzai had ordered the Kabul Municipality to award plots to repatriated Kuchi tribesmen in the Budkhak area of Bagrami district and Mullah Tarakhel misused this order of the president and grabbed over 17 acres of land in Gosfan Dara.

The government official said lawmaker Allah Gul Mujahid was somehow involved in these cases as he had warned not to allow anyone to evict his supporters from the land in Gosfan Dara.

Institutions to whom the land is allocated

Abdul Jabbar Safi, deputy head of the Afghanistan Industrial Association (AIA), said the government and industrialists reached an agreement in 2013 on establishing an industrial park in Gosfan Dara area.

After the government allocated 1,000 acres of land for the industrial park, Jabbar said he and other industrialists visited the area but saw illegal settlements there. The land was grabbed and work was underway there, he added.

He said more than 800 factories would have been set up in the area and jobs for 50,000 people created had the land not been usurped.

Ministry of Refugee and Repatriation (MoRR)

An official at MoRR said the ministry had the plan to construct a township for hundreds of returning refugee families on the 1,000 acres of land awarded to the ministry in Gosfand Dara area, but currently the scheme was not possible to be implemented due to the land grabbing.

Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE)

An official of the MoHE said his ministry wanted to establish a national institute of mines with financial support from India over 250 acres of land in Gosfand Dara area, but the initiative faced problems as land had been illegally encroached upon there.

The Municipality and plan for constructing cemetery in eastern Kabul

Jalil Sulatani, Kabul Municipality’s spokesman, said it had been set to allocate 127 acres of land for a general cemetery east of Kabul in Gosfand Dara area.

Even the contract for construction of surrounding walls of the graveyard was signed with a company; however the project could not implemented due to opposition from strongmen and land mafia.

Safiullah Abdi, the 12th municipal district chief of Kabul city, said: “The land for the graveyard was set aside based on suggestions from Arzan Qimat area residents, but unfortunately powerful individuals threatened the company and forced it to stop work.”

What area residents say about the cemetery land

Mohammad Zaman, speaking on behalf of 12th municipal district residents, said: “The general cemetery land is usurped by strongmen and the government has been unable to reclaim it.”

“If the government has no power to retake the land, then it should specify another land for the cemetery in order people’s problems are resolved.”

Reaction from the original accused land grabbers

Allah Gul Mujahid

Allah Gul Mujahid, a public representative from Kabul at the Wolesi Jirga, while denying his involvement in Gosfand Dara land grabbing, said the accusation against him a conspiracy defame him.

He alleged a number of high-ranking government officials were involved in the land usurpation and the government lacked the inability to prevent the illegal process.

“People of Gosfand Dara are indigenous residents of Kabul and they have given me vote in election and I am their servant.”

“If someone or the government claims they own the land, then they should approach the department of cases and every decision taken there should be implemented.”

However, Sher Ali Ahmadzai and Haji Munji Ahmadzai, two other suspects of land grabbing in Gosfand Dara, refused to talk on the issue with Pajhwok and also telephonic contact was not established with Akbar Stanikzai, a lawmaker from Logar province.

Mullah Tarakhel

Mullah Tarakhel Muhammadi, a Kuchi representative in the lower house, in reaction to accusations leveled against him of grabbing land around Gosfand Dara (Portion 1421 and Portion 1422), said: “The Senator Janat Gul Township -- stretches over a 17,500 acres of land -- is meant for Kuchis based on a presidential order and the Municipality suggestion.”

The MP adds: “This township has passed through all legal steps and in exchange for every 2,000 square meters, about 30,000 afs has been paid to the Municipality.”

“Those who claim this land is grabbed should come forward and substantiate their allegations by producing documents and proof. I know this is just a propaganda by some elements against me; but I am accountable for every metre of the township as this is a legitimate project.”

He said about 220,000 homes, 327 mosques, and 21 schools had been constructed in the township for nomadic people who had repatriated to the country.

Continuation of land grabbing and selling without any ‘legal deed’

In addition to officials’ claims of usurpation of huge parts of Gosfand Dara area by strongmen, including some Wolesi Jirga members, residents also say the sale of such land in small plots is broadly ongoing.

Muhammad Din, an in-charge of Ahmad Abad Township southeast of Gosfand Dara area, told Pajhwok he bought the township land from a member of parliament and along with other land he inherited from his father, the lawmaker said he wanted to build a residential township on 50 acres of land.

He said currently, based on people’s demands, he had prepared the map and that he sold plots through ‘customary deed’.

“Every land plot is 300 to 500 square meters and the price of plots varies based on their location from 200,000 to 800,000 afghanis. We give the purchaser a customary deed and we guarantee that no one would claim possession of his property, but if the government files a case, then we don’t guarantee it.”

Ghulam Hazrat, a property dealer, said: “Plots are cheaper here compared to other parts in Kabul. One residential plot is equivalent to 300 square meters; the selling prices start from 20,000 afs and reach up to 500,000 afs.”

Ghulam Hazrat said his property dealing office had no responsibility for land owned by the government, but he believed the government’s plan for the area was just symbolic as it wouldn’t be implemented.

Musa Khan, another land seller in the area, said he had purchased the land he was selling from a public representative in the Wolesi Jirga.

“Many residents of Gosfand Dara are supporters of Allah Gul Mujahid, and it was due to Mujahid that the area was developed.”

However, Zamaray, a man who possess 26 acres of land in the area, said that he had inherited the land from his father.

But he said he knew a lot of Gosfand Dara lands had been grabbed by land mafia and strongmen, during which several people lost their lives.

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