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24 Jan 2018
Writer: Samia Walizada

Rampant land grabbing in west

An area of land nearly the size of Kabul city has been illegally usurped in the four provinces of Herat, Farah, Badghis and Ghor.
Local authorities in the western zone allege that 863 "powerful people" have taken over 117,495 jeribs (23,499 hectares) of mostly public land. Some private land has also been usurped.
They say the new owners have claimed ownership by forging land deeds and bribing government officials.

Herat
Some 200 powerful individuals have usurped 60,000-50,000 jeribs (10,000 to12,000 hectares) in the province. Provincial officials say the presidencies of education, agriculture and livestock, Haj and religious affairs are the rightful owners.
According to information from local authorities, the lands owned by the education department of Herat were taken back from the usurpers. However, the latter got back possession by forging documents.
Jailani Farhad, the spokesperson for the Herat governor's office, says that a total of 5,000 jeribs (1,000 hectares) was demarcated for the construction of a township for teachers but 1,500 jeribs (300 hectares) have been either usurped or distributed to teachers who were not deserving.
Moreover, Farhad says the property office of the education presidency has received 13,000 Afs (188 USD) for each plot of land from teachers but the possession document still has not been given to some of them.
She claims the property office has either embezzled the money or distributed it among undeserving teachers. According to her, corrupt employees of the property office have been identified and their files sent to the Attorney General Office for investigation. But Abdul Razaq Ahmadi, head of education in Herat, says the employees under his management cannot be accused of any type of corruption.
He says the cash received from the teachers was transferred to the government treasury. Ahmadi insists the land grabbers have been able to usurp the lands that were property of education department through personal relations with government authorities. Mir Mohammad Khairandesh, the expert of properties in education department of Heart, says the government in 2010 had announced that 35 jeribs (7 hectares) of usurped land from the teachers' township project was restored but his findings show that the lands were usurped again. He told Killid that the usurpers of the lands again got possession of the mentioned lands forging the deeds and documents.

According to Khairandesh, the lands that have been again usurped belong to 800 teachers. He added that the government has not done anything about restoring the lands.
Documents in Killid's possession show the land for the teachers' township was taken by the leaders of the Mukhtarzada tribe. However, the local authorities refuse to identify who the land grabbers are by name. Neither would elders of the tribe speak to Killid.
Based on information from the spokesperson of the Herat governor's spokesperson, public lands have been usurped in Charrahi Maref, Qol Urdo Sabeq, Darb Khosh and three districts of Kohsan, Shindand, Gulran as well as in the teachers' township.
Farhad says powerful and influential individuals have forged documents to usurp the lands but Abdul Wadood Nezami, head of documents registration in the Herat Appeal Court, rejects the claim. He says he is the person in charge of distribution of deeds in the Lands' Authority – which is undertaken on orders from the government.
Probe in 12 cases
Ghulam Mohammad Rahmani, head of justice in Herat, says one hundred dossiers regarding government and non-government land grabbing have been referred to the justice department. He told Killid 18 of the dossiers were sent to the Herat Attorney General Office who has announced orders for 12.
Rahmani says 1,802 jeribs (360 hectares) have been taken back following investigation and prosecution.
The government has collected 6,988,000 Afs (101,000 USD) as fine from the usurpers. He mentions that the process
of investigation is complicated and time- consuming.
Khalil Ahmad Qarizada, public prosecutor for appeal in the Attorney General Office, confirms 12 dossiers have been investigated in the current year.
According to him, between two and three individuals are involved in land grabbing in each case.They have either paid the fine or gone to jail – punishments as laid down by the law. The longest jail sentence is of five years.
Kamran Alizayee, head of Herat provincial council, and Jamila Amini, member of the provincial council, are not satisfied with the action taken in restoring usurped public land. The former says not enough has been done to prevent land grabbing.
Farah
Mohammad Nader Farahi, the head of Lands' Authority in the province, says 32,000 jeribs (6,400 hectares) of government land has been usurped in 10 districts of Farah province. He claims 504 usurpers have been identified over the past three years and their cases referred to the Attorney General Office. He says 900 jeribs (180 hectares) of usurped land was restored but simultaneously 800 jeribs (160 hectares) have been lost to usurpers.
He blames insecurity for the land grab.
Mohammad Yunus Rasooli, deputy governor of Farah, alleges the land grabbers are influential and powerful. Some government authorities are also involved in land grabbing, he adds.
He says wherever the government has taken action against land grabbers, the latter have escaped the tentacles of the law and joined Taliban.
Badghis and Ghor
Roughly 23,500 jeribs (4,000 hectares) of private land in Badghis and 400) 2,000 hectares) in Ghor have been taken over by local powerful individuals. Sharafudin Majidi, deputy governor of Badghis, says 95 individuals are involved in usurpation of government land. Land, which is mostly private in Ghor, has been usurped by some 100 people.The affected districts are Pasaband and Shahrak.
Abdullah, who is the head of Ghor Lands Authority, told Killid, 100 jeribs (20 hectares) of land has been restored.
Mohammad Naser Khazea, Ghor governor, says most of the usurped private lands in the province did not have clear ownership title. He says the process of registering of land titles would soon start in the province, which can prevent land grabbing.
The General Authority of Lands says land has been usurped not just in the western zone but in at least 30 provinces by local powerful individuals.
Hashmatullah Naseri, in charge of press in the General Lands Authority, says an estimated 1.6 million jeribs (32,000 hectares) have been taken over illegally.
According to Naseri, only 300,000 jerib (60,000 hectares) have been restored to the rightful owners, and dossiers for 19,000 jeribs (3,800 hectares) have been sent to the justice authorities. He said orders from the president's office prevented him from revealing the names of land grabbers.

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