Land grabbing, Vawda and corruption

It’s the kind of thing that has been happening for centuries and usually doesn’t raise eyebrows. Someone sees a plot of land lying vacant for a long time, finds out that the owner is poor, or dead or out of the country, and then occupies it. In this highly corrupt country, he is usually able to get land records manipulated to show that he is the owner. If the real owner is lucky, someone informs him and he gets a stay order to prevent construction on the plot. But usually he finds out only when a house has been built and people are living in it. Sometimes the illegal occupier offers him a pittance for the land (about a tenth of its value), but mostly he is contemptuously ignored. Knowing that it will take up to thirty years to get relief from the courts and he could well be dead by then, he decides not to take any legal action, cursing the day he was born.

It wouldn’t be out of place to mention here that many mosques in Karachi are built on illegally occupied land. Immediately after the illegal occupation, a small mosque is built, then a house comes up where the land grabbing mullah can live with his wives and children. The poor owner has no choice but to forget that he ever owned the plot.
But today we have an interesting case which involves two confidants of Mr Clean himself. One is Mohammed Mian Soomro (minister for privatisation), the other is (ironically) the Accountability Czar, whose brother is the alleged occupier, while the claimant is a nephew of the minister. A senior government official was asked to investigate the matter and he determined that the brother of the accountability advisor (Shehzad Akber) got the land record manipulated in his favour. Guess what happened? The senior government official was immediately transferred! It should be interesting to know how this drama turns out, and whose side the Great Khan will take. But knowing that he has too much on his plate right now, perhaps he will tell the two parties to reach a settlement.

In the meantime, the flamboyant minister for water (Vawda) is in the news again. It seems he was a dual national when he submitted the papers to contest the National Assembly elections against Shahbaz Sharif (he was able to persuade the court not to order a recount, despite winning by only 723 votes). In the signed affidavit to the Electtion Commission, he declared under oath that he didn’t have any other nationality except Pakistani. Perhaps he didn’t know that it’s a serious matter, as he contemptuously said, “Please go ahead” when a reporter asked him for his version before printing the story. Perhaps he was confident that his crime would be overlooked, maybe he even thought he could get the process of disqualification postponed indefinitely (you know, like the PTI foreign funding case). And if you tell about this to any PTI followers (the few of them who are still around, that is), they say, “So what? He later applied for cancellation of his US citizenship, didn’t he?” But the really puzzling thing is why he should have applied for US citizenship in the first place. When you see that he owns very expensive motorcycles and cars worth many millions, he’s not the kind of person who would want to go and live in another country and work for a living.

And finally, here’s a piece of news that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The country grew more corrupt after the Laadla was thrust upon us to ruin our lives. Remember how he used to say that he would eliminate corruption in ninety days? No comment!
The writer is an engineer, a former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College