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The Killid Group, December 27, 2014

Public land for private taking

Among the estimated 1,138 usurpers – 650 in Herat province alone – are two former governors, a former mayor and the mayor of Farah district

By Shoaib Tanha and Hamed Kohistani

People in power have usurped more than 100,000 jeribs of public land in the west of the country. The government has obligingly looked the other way in half the cases, according to an investigation by Killid.

Among the estimated 1,138 usurpers – 650 in Herat province alone – are two former governors, a former mayor and the mayor of Farah district who have taken over public land for private use with the support of cabinet ministers in the previous government. Most cases have been referred to the Attorney General’s Office and are under investigation on paper.

Mohammad Ibrahim Mahboob, the executive manager of Herat Lands Authority (HLA) says 64,069 jeribs (one jerib is equal to 2,000 sq metres) but he refused to divulge the names, citing a presidential order. However, Sayed Fazlullah, the acting governor who is no supporter of ex-president Hamid Karzai has made public a list of names featuring among others Sayed Husain Anwari, the former governor of Herat and current leader of Harakat Islami and ex-governor Ahmad Yusuf Nooristani who is the head of the Independent Election Commission.

A Killid source who did not want his name revealed claimed Anwari has given ownership of 1000 jeribs in Maiferosh township to one of his relatives. The source said the case was under investigation.

We tried to interview the two former provincial governors but they would not speak to us. However, the two have earlier denied the charges in public, and called it politically motivated by Wahidi, the acting governor, who wants to vilify them.

A source has provided Killid with a copy of a list from the HLA with the names of 15 usurpers including Mohammad Saleem Taraki, former mayor of Herat and Arbab Mohammad Zarif the former governor of Kohsan district of Herat province. Taraki features 11th on the list and has allegedly usurped 4,000 jeribs lands in an area called Robat Paryan in Zendajan district. The acting governor of Herat has confirmed the list as “genuine”. The acting governor has publicly proclaimed taking on the usurpers is a priority for his government.

According to Wahidi, the usurpers brazenly took over government lands because of support from the central government. “Fifty percent” of cabinet ministers in the Karzai government were involved, he said but refrained from naming anyone.

In defence

sayed_hussian_anwari.jpg
The Killid Group, Dec. 27, 2014: However, Sayed Fazlullah, the acting governor who is no supporter of ex-president Hamid Karzai has made public a list of names featuring among others Sayed Husain Anwari (pictured), the former governor of Herat and current leader of Harakat Islami and ex-governor Ahmad Yusuf Nooristani who is the head of the Independent Election Commission. A Killid source who did not want his name revealed claimed Anwari has given ownership of 1000 jeribs in Maiferosh township to one of his relatives.

Taraki who has denied the charges has said his family has been in possession of the land in question in Robat Paryan for 100 years. “We have legal title and are prepared to show them to show it to the courts,” he has been quoted saying in the media.

Zarif, the former governor of Kohsan district whose name is 10th on the HLA list is accused of allegedly usurping 1500 jeribs of government land next to Islam Qala port and distributing it illegally to his people to build houses. Zarif who spoke to Killid insisted the lands were ancestral property of his family, and he has legal deeds to it. He said 5,000 families are now living on the lands, and would defend their right. Acting governor Wahid said a case of usurpation has been made against Zarif and sent to the AGO, and the fate of the occupants would also be decided.

Meanwhile, the head of the court of appeal in Herat, Sayed Abdul Ghafar Zubair, neither confirmed nor dismissed our queries on whether the AGO was investigating the involvement of governors, mayors and district governor in cases of illegal occupation of government lands. All he said is that he has “documents” that show involvement of high-ranking individuals but the investigation has not been completed. Ten other usurpers are in prison in Herat jail, he revealed.

Farah

In the last two years, charges of usurpation have been leveled against powerful people also in Farah. The government has lost possession of an estimated 21,000 jeribs. Mohammad Nader Farahi of Farah Lands Authority says 12,500 jeribs have been illegally distributed to individuals under the pretext of developing townships. Farahi quotes Article 5 of the Law on Land Management, which says that title of government land can be given to municipalities or others only after it is evaluated and priced by the concerned Land Authority. According to him, the municipality of Farah, which has usurped 12,500 jeribs, has not followed due process.

According to Farahi, 3,500 jeribs usurped by the Farah mayor is in Meel 78 Abonasr Farabi area that has been recently changed into a township. Farahi says the mayor, Farah Ali Ahmad Wakili, has usurped the lands illegally. The case has been sent to the Farah AGO. He says recently some 3,000 jeribs were restored to the government after a court decision but the mayor of Farah took possession and distributed plots to people illegally.

According to him, a list of 122 usurpers in Farah is with the AGO.

Killid interviewed Farah mayor Ali Ahmad Wakili about the charges against him. He challenged the Farah Land Authority’s claim that he usurped 12,000 jeribs, saying they have not been able to put together documentary proof because the paper work in the case was complete. The only lacunae was that the Farah municipality went ahead and established a township on the lands without waiting for the order of transfer from the Afghanistan Lands Authority in Kabul (the central office).

Jawad Paikar, the director in Kabul, said some 335 townships have come up on public land across the country without permission, and it has been seen as “land grabbing”.

Badghis

Killid’s investigation shows roughly three quarter of public lands in Badghis province have been usurped. Aziz Ahmad Atayaee of the Lands Authority in the province says files on 330 accused individuals are with the AGO. He said he could not reveal any names until the charges are proved in court.

Ghor

The contagion of “land grabbing” has not spared Ghor. According to Abdullah Sidiqi of the Land Authority, some 850 jeribs in the centre of Ghor and other districts were usurped by both powerful and ordinary people. He says his office has a list of 200 usurpers - 36 cases have been sent to the AGO.

The Afghanistan Lands Authority is committed to stopping “land grabbing”, it says. Paikar, the director, has threatened to send a list of usurpers to the council of ministers in the Ghani government, and restore the lost lands.

A government decree issued in early 2012 had ordered all offices to put together information on the estimated 1 million jeribs of usurped lands across the country within three months. Government land was grabbed in Kabul, Balkh, Kandahar, Nangarhar and Kunduz provinces. Mohammad Saleh Saljoki, the then assistant commissioner said the evidence collected 1,248,000 jeribs of public land was in the possession of 15,800 usurpers.

Category: Corruption - Views: 3733