By Meer Agha Nasrat Samimi
There is overwhelming evidence of a proliferation of poorly constructed, illegal townships across the country with efforts ongoing to execute more housing schemes on usurped lands. An investigation by the Independent Media Consortium (IMC)* reveals there are multiple agencies at work and unable to check the rot.
High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption chief Azizullah Ludin says documents of most of townships are fake and that there are 355 townships in the country whose documents should be investigated.
The draft prepared by the Afghanistan Land Authority assessing the seizure of government and private lands (copy is available) says 986,334 jeribs (5 jeribs are one hectare) of public land has been grabbed.
The report prepared by the Special Commission on Extortion of Townships and City Properties in Aug 2012 states the grabbers are powerful warlords and commanders, high-ranking government officials, Cabinet members and wealthy people who have earned money illegally and through drug smuggling.
The joint investigation by the IMC shows dozens of housing schemes have been executed in Kabul either in violation of the relevant rules or on encroached land.
Owners assert legality
Habibullah Nasiri, who assists Hezb Musharekat Milli (The National Partnership Party) led by Najibullah Kabuli (a township owner), said Kabuli possessed legal documents of the land on which Nejat Mena township had been constructed. "Najibullah Kabuli is out of the country. He has told the Attorney General Office that he can provide the required documents because the land belongs to him and his cousins," Nasiri said.
On the other hand, one of the investors in Gulbahar Tower township, says they have legal documents of the land on which the Gulbahar township has been built. He also says they had initiated the scheme in agreement with the Cabinet and court and work permit is being processed with Kabul municipality.
Stanikzai City an apartment complex in Kabul. (Photo: http://www.goldencity.com.af/scity.html)
Haji Sher Ali, who represents Kochi tribe in parliament, says his brother Haji Munjai doesn't have a township of his own.
He said land was distributed to nomads in Botkhak of Kabul under a presidential decree and the nomads constructed houses on it individually and named the township after Haji Munjai because he was one of their elders. Haji Munjai is currently living in Pakistan.
Fazal Rahman, alias Mullah Fazal, the owner of Mullah Fazal Township, whose name has been mentioned in the list as Mullah Fazal Tarakhil, says his township is part of the Kabul project, but work on it has not been launched as yet.
Calls to seek comments from other township owners went unanswered.
Mixed views of buyers
Haji Toor, a resident of Haji Munjai Township, says residents were distributed plots seven years back in Botkhak in compliance with a presidential decree. The land was distributed by Haji Munjai and Mullah Tarakhel Kochi to nomads who did not pay money for the plots.
A Kabul resident, who has bought a plot in the Mullah Ezat Township, says "almost every building is built illegally or unplanned. Some buildings have been built higher than two stories illegally even in planned residential areas. If the government intends to demolish such buildings, it has to destroy the entire city."
He said people purchased lands in unplanned areas because the government did nothing to provide them with shelter after returning home from neighbouring countries.
According to the report of Afghanistan's Lands Office, illegal land-grabbers have usurped 230,810 jerbs of lands and constructed 228 illegal townships on them throughout the country. There are details from Balkh, Herat, Nangarhar, Parwan and Ghazni.
High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption chief Azizullah Ludin says his office has written to the Presidential Palace that most townships have been illegally constructed and their documents are dubious.
"Encroaching on governmental properties is common throughout the country and the reason behind it is that no one asks such individuals how they usurped the property. How did they get it and what document they possess to claim ownership of public lands," he said.
Deputy urban development minister Hajji Mohammad Akbar Ahmadi said his ministry has warned owners of 70 townships that have been poorly built. He did not name any.
Kabul municipality official Abdul Ahad Wahed says Kabul municipality has information on every building constructed illegally and the department has sent letters to the interior ministry and the police stations concerned, but no action could be taken on their requests.
Copies of letters sent by Kabul municipality to the Ministry of Interior are available with IMC. These letters are addressed to the Ministry of Interior Affairs, different Kabul City district officials and National Directorate of Security branches, calling for action to prevent the construction of illegal buildings. But no action has been taken.
In a letter No. 484/670 dated 20 April 2010, the Kabul municipality has requested the Presidential Palace, Kabul police headquarters, 16th police district and Kabul National Security Office to help the municipality prevent the construction of Gulbahar Tower Township, but no step was taken.
(*) Independent Media Consortium Productions is a joint initiative of Pajhwok Afghan News, The Killid Group, Saba Media Organisation (Saba TV-Radio Nawa nets) and Hasht-e-Subh. This is the first of a series of investigative reports on corruption and human rights cases produced with support provided by Tawanmandi.