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PAN, October 23, 2010

2m hectares of state land grabbed, MPs told

A lawmaker from southeastern Paktika province, Nadar Khan Katawazai, alleged the ministry was just holding out pledges and was doing nothing in practical terms

By Abasin Zaheer

KABUL - Nearly two million hectares of state land has been illegally occupied by powerful individuals over the past three decades, a senior official informed the Wolesi Jirga on Saturday.

Ahmad Wali Karzai lands
National Public Radio, Feb. 1, 2010: U.S. and Afghan officials say that the man at the center of the land grabs in one province is the president's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who chairs the provincial council in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. A State Department adviser in Kandahar, Todd Greentree, says that portions of land were transferred by signature to Ahmed Wali Karzai, or elements under his control. Greentree says Ahmed Wali Karzai was able to grab the lands because of his political connections.

It was no easy job to retake the land, Muhammad Salim Kunduzi, deputy agriculture and livestock minister, told lawmakers. A department called 'Afghanistan Land Authority' has been established to reclaim the land.

"This department can succeed only if assisted by security as well as municipal organs," the minister said, adding the encroachers had obtained fake documents that could not be differentiated from original ownership papers.

"Assistance from municipalities is required to tell apart original and fake ownership documents," Kunduzi stressed.

Asked by MP Sultan Muhammad Aurang how much land had been retaken from illegal occupants, Kunduzi replied his ministry would be able to answer the question in the presence of other organs concerned.

The deputy minister said they planned to provide farmers with 75 tonnes of improved wheat seeds and chemical fertilizers during the ongoing year. Nearly 6,000 tractors would be provided to cooperative societies at subsidised rates.

He revealed the ministry had launched a loan scheme for the people who wanted to invest in the agriculture sector. Until the end of the year, he added, $24 million would be loaned to such investors.

Kunduzi said a programme had been launched to revive pistachio forests. So far a million pistachio trees had been grown, he pointed out.

A lawmaker from southeastern Paktika province, Nadar Khan Katawazai, alleged the ministry was just holding out pledges and was doing nothing in practical terms. But Kunduzi rejected his claim, saying they were doing their bit to assist farmers.

Another legislator, Alami Balkhi, said agriculture output had increased, but growers were facing problems in harvesting their crops. He urged the ministry to facilitate farmers in this regard.

Kunduzi promised about 76,000 tonnes of wheat stocks would be distributed to people, as and when needed. He said the country required 0.7 million tonnes of wheat annually. The requirement was met with imports, he concluded.

Category: Warlords, Corruption - Views: 6722