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The Killid Group
Uncovering secrecies in sprawling townshipWritten by Mohammad Fahim Haidari
Saturday, 15 January 2011 14:23
The buildup of numerous townships in Kabul and other provinces often by a powerful land mafia yields social, legal and environmental problems as MPs accuse the government for inattention.
According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD) currently there are 43 townships across the country including 16 in Kabul. However, every township has not been approved and registered by the Kabul Municipality. Officials say only those townships where high buildings are built have their approval but the rest are "illegal" and the land has been seized by what they call a powerful "land mafia". The 'land mafia', officials say, include top government officials, militia commanders and other local strongmen who are immensely engaged in land seizure, distribution and sale.
Investigating the issue has been all but easy and riskless given the existence of too many obstacles and secrecies surrounding these sprawling townships and their powerful owners.
There are all sorts of concerns and questions about the townships such as to what extent are they resistant against natural disasters (earthquake, floods, landslide etc) and whether their construction meets urban development requirements and standards.
Most importantly, it's claimed that most of the land plots over which townships are being built are public and government properties which have been confiscated by powerful individuals. Owners, however, say the plots are their legitimate properties, often inherited, and that they have the right to sell or build houses on them. Whether or not the houses meet urban and housing standards, they say, is an issue which should be tackled by the relevant government bodies.
Shah Wali Zame, an official in the Kabul Municipality, accuses a powerful "land mafia" of confiscating public lands and building unlawful and substandard townships. "The mafia attempts to seize more and more land; they have shown their military power when speaking with the Kabul Municipality."
The alleged involvement of some high-ranking government officials in land seizures or the provision of phony ownership documents, some say, has further complicated the problem.
Ramazan Bashardost, an MP in the lower house of the parliament, said the crisis of land confiscation started with the grabbing of plots in the historic Sherpor area in Kabul city by some Jihadi leaders, ministers and other influential people. "According to the constitution, the President has no right to distribute government land to individuals. In case the law permits this, the President can only let government lands for certain projects," Bashardost said.
The MHUD, which has the main responsibility for the registration and inspection of townships, also reported a number of problems but conceded it had done little to reverse the situation.
"Prior to the establishment of a township, a legal entity called Cadastre should verify the land status and its ownership details from a legal standpoint. Then, this organization inspects the townships according to their sketches; determines whether the urban plans are met; and executes other legal, administrative and professional affairs," said Sayeed Osman, director of MHUD's Urban Development Department.
Legal deeds for illegally grabbed land
According to some government officials, many townships have been built on illegally confiscated land across the country and lack certified ownership documents. Ironically, many of the owners claim they have every valid legal papers and deeds for their properties. Zalmai Zabuli, head of the Complaints Commission in the Upper House of the National Assembly, said: "It's a big problem that legal deeds are provided to them by some legal and judicial entities so that the owners of the townships are protected from questions as to how they got the land."
Apparently in a bid to tackle the problem, the government has formed the Afghanistan Land Administration Office in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) which has a mandate to facilitate land services to foreign and national investors and curb the growing land confiscation problem.
"According to our survey 33 percent of the agricultural land in Afghanistan (875,000 hectares) has been seized by local strongmen over the past few years but there is no information about the scale of land confiscation in Kabul," Hashmatullah Naseri, director of the Public and Media Relations in the Afghanistan Land Administration Office, told Killid.
Officials in Ministry of Justice have even said that some influential land grabbers have got access to official maps available in governmental offices and have distorted official documents to their benefit. Their ability to access confidential government documents and distort official records indicates how powerful and prevalent the land mafia has become, officials say. This implies how powerful and prevalent the land mafia has become!
Unsurprisingly, the owners of some townships strongly reject any wrongdoing.
Moqaddam Amin, the owner of Green City Township said: "I have purchased all the land I posses legitimately," adding that it was impossible to distort government maps and documents.
Amin, nonetheless, said that people who confiscated public properties enjoyed support from some high-ranking government officials and were immune from meaningful legal and penal actions by the government. "If the government does not take part in plundering the government lands, no other person or company would be able to do so."
According to the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, listed below are the townships and their alleged owners which have been built in Kabul over the past few years:
1- Nejat Mena Township located in the Chamtala Desert, allegedly possessed by Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf
2- Karte Nejat Mena Township in Chamtala Desert, possessed by Najibullah Kabuli
3- Kamyab Township located in Chamtala Desert, possessed by Eng. Nek Mohammad
4- Safaa Tonwhip located in Chamtala Desert, possessed by Temor Shah
5- Talaee Township located in Chamtala Desert, possessed by Gul Haider
6- Haji Odro Gul Township located in Kariz Mir, possessed by Wahidullah Odro Gul
7- Mille Behsood Township located in Haider Khan Qala, possessed by Mohammad Alam
8- Rostam Haideri Township located in 3rd Parwan, possessed by Rostam Haideri Company
9- Haji Mohammad Saleh Hair (township) located in Bagh Bala area, possessed by Ghulam Dastgir Hakim.
10- Haji Nazir Mena Township located in Kamri outskirt, possessed by Afzal Ahmadzai.
11- Darweshan Township located in Rahman Mena, possessed by Najibullah
12- Dawlatzai Township located in Qala Mohsin Buth Khak, possessed by Wkilan Dawlatzai
13- Nawroz Abad Township located in Bagrami, possessed by Haji Nawroz
14- Omid Sabz Township located in Darul Aman, possessed by Haji Nabi Khalili
15- Safaa Sabz Township located in Chawk Arghandi, possessed by Abdul Latif Hashimi
16- Tourist Hotel and Coffee shop located in Wahidullah Kashifi