Digitization of land crucial for fostering economic prosperity

PESHAWAR, Dec 10 (APP): As sunlight bathes the home of a struggling farmer, Misal Khan grabs a hoe, aiming to uncover his lost land buried beneath layers of mud and sand, remnants of last year’s devastating floods in the River Kabul.

Misal Khan, an 83-year-old farmer, wakes up early in the morning daily, loads his hoe on the bicycle and pedals it to cross River Kabul’s bridge in a bid to locate his five kanal of land in Nishta area in district Charsadda. He returns after traversing nearly five kilometers in three hours with disappointment.

 “This exercise is incredibly arduous. Despite approaching the authorities for the demarcation of my five kanal land, the issue remains unaddressed after one and a half years; thanks to the flawed and obsolete colonial patwar system in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where litigation cases continue for decades, even many dies while pursuing the cases,” shared Misal Khan, a resident of Dheri Ishaq village in Nowshera district, while talking to APP.

He contended that the valuable agricultural lands in their village and neighour towns have either succumbed to the River Kabul or fallen prey to the land mafias. Retrieving the land was a significant challenge for genuine owners due to demarcation problems, outdated patwar system and alleged corruption within the Patwar system, he claimed.
Misal Khan argued that the antiquated conventional land records system not only complicates property transactions, transfers, and tax collections but also hinders the efficient use of modern technological tools for accurate mapping, demarcation, registration of land and property devolution.

Professor Dr. Zilakat Malik, former Chairman Economics Department, University of Peshawar told APP that one of the reasons of land disputes passes from one generation to other, increase in litigations and low agriculture productivity in Pakistan was non-implementation of the lands reforms introduced from time to time by the previous governments apparently due to political reasons.

He said had land reforms introduced during 1958 to 1977 not made controversial then Pakistan’s could have easily achieved economic and agricultural prosperity besides high GDP growth today and did not approach international monetary institutions for loans.

 ‘The computerization of community land (shamailat and khana e khast) records was a big challenge in merged tribal districts, Upper Kohistan, Lower Kohistan, Dir, Malakand, Torghar, Kolai Palas and Chitral districts. To address this grave issue, special committees comprising representatives of districts administration, revenue department and local elders were constituted to persuade communities to digitize their properties as well as lands besides ending the decades long land disputes,” Ijazur Rehman, Director Lands Records, Revenue and Estates Department KP said while talking to APP.

He said that digitization of land record was started in 19 districts of Khyber Pakthunkhwa in 2013 under a project ‘Computerization of Land Record in KP’ with phase-I costing Rs1,063 million while its phase-II was launched in 2015 costing Rs1479 million aimed at to bring all revenue estates (mozajats) under digital net.
He said lands of all 176 mauzas in Mardan, 167 mauzas in Buner, 145 mauzas of Kohat and 87 mauzas in Tank districts were computerized besides 232 mauzas out of 242 in Abbottabad, 44 mauzas out of 49 in Hangu, 100 mauzas out of 111 in Shangla, 189 mauzas out of 203 in Peshawar, 138 mauzas out of 158 in Swabi, 123 mauzas out of 167 in Lakki Marwat, 287 mauzas out of 366 in Haripur, 197 mauzas out of 241 in Bannu, 74 mauzas out of 99 in Nowshera, 152 mauzas out of 202 in Swat, 85 mauzas out of 122 in Karak, 115 mauzas out of 205 mauzas in Charsadda, 55 mauzas out of 104 in Batagram and 132 mauzas out of 274 in Manshera and 221 mauzas out of 390 mauzas in DI Khan were computerized. He said land record of all pending mozajats would be put live on land record information system (LRIMS) by June 2024.

Ataur Rehman Khan, Director, Management Information System (MIS) revenue department said that a mega project was launched for digitization of land record of Kalam Swat, Dir Lower and Dir Upper districts with Rs193 million allocation and work on it was already launched with consensus of local elders/jirgas.

Under accelerated implementation program (AIP), he said the government initiated work on a federal funded project under which settlement of lands of South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber, Bajaur and Mohmand tribal districts would be achieved before computerization of lands in these hitherto neglected regions.

For this purpose, special reconciliation committees under chairmanship of divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners were set up with representatives of district administration, revenue department and tribal elders for smooth digitization and settlement of community lands in merged tribal districts.

Attaur Rehman said that the Rs146 million ‘Electronic-Stamp’ project was launched with technical assistance of Punjab IT Board to increase land revenue and broaden tax collection, adding E-stamp valued of Rs1,000 was already introduced in above 19 settled districts with positive effects.

To facilitate people, Director Lands Record said that 50 Service Delivery Centres (SDCs) were set up in the aforementioned 19 districts for issuance of computerized fard, registration and property inheritance certificates besides transfers of land, adding that all transactions were now made accessible to the public through an online system.

The deputy commissioners of all districts of KP have been directed to ensure precautionary measures for the safety of land records and record rooms in their respective tehsils and districts. The DCs have been asked to provide information regarding the installation of fire extinguishers, electrification systems, racking, insecticides and CCTV cameras, so that they could be provided with the requisite funds for the purpose.

Ejazur Rehman expressed optimism to start work on digitization of land records at Kohistan, Torghar and other remaining districts next year besides bringing community lands (shamainlaat and Khana-e-Kasht) under digital net.

Regarding changes in colonial era patwar training syllabus, he said patwar course was condensed from nine months to six months with introduction of information technology and geographical information system as compulsory subjects while special quota in Patwar jobs were reserved for female, minorities and persons with disabilities.

These initiatives would help ensure accountability and transparency in the revenue department on one hand while encouraging IT educated youth to join Govt jobs as patwari on the other hand besides enhancing revenue of the government viz a viz quick resolution of litigation cases.

APP/fam/taj (APP Feature Service)

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