Pol­i­tics of land

Enterprise - - Letters -

The pol­i­tics of Pak­istan es­sen­tially boils down to ter­ri­tory. Gov­ern­ments, be they at the fed­eral, pro­vin­cial or city level, take power and hand out jobs to peo­ple who are loyal to them. The tus­sle in Karachi right now over the lo­cal gov­ern­ment not be­ing handed the reins of power is a fight over ap­point­ments. Com­pet­ing par­ties in the city want to be able to place their own peo­ple in the po­lice, build­ing com­mis­sions and other po­si­tions where land can be con­ve­niently given on favourable terms to al­lies. The Supreme Court has now sig­nalled its in­ten­tion to try and curb this prac­tice, say­ing that the gov­ern­ment all but hands over maps to land grab­bers and in­vites them to take over what they de­sire. The court has also said that the state sells off po­lice posts to smooth over any is­sues with law en­force­ment.

None of what the Supreme Court said in its state­ment is un­true. It is widely known that gov­ern­ments in this coun­try use their power to take over land. The prob­lem is that mere state­ments alone will do noth­ing to end this prac­tice. It will re­quire en­force­ment and that power, in a catch 22 sit­u­a­tion, lies with the very gov­ern­ments that are grab­bing the land in the first place. The is­sue is not just one of gov­ern­ments tak­ing over empty parcels of land and hand­ing it over to sup­port­ers. They are ac­tively kick­ing out peo­ple who are at fault only be­cause they lack the req­ui­site doc­u­men­ta­tion to prove they have been liv­ing in an area for gen­er­a­tions. It was only re­cently in Is­lam­abad that the gov­ern­ment bull­dozed an en­tire katchi abadi to grab land and, be­cause the po­lice was in its pocket, used it to ac­cuse the res­i­dents of shel­ter­ing mil­i­tants. All of this was a pre­text for tak­ing over the land. If there is any crit­i­cism to be made it is that the court is­sued only a gen­eral state­ment in­stead of try­ing to rec­tify such trav­es­ties of jus­tice. The elected of­fi­cials-po­lice nexus is strong enough that it will re­quire stronger com­mit­ment and a con­certed ef­fort to break it.

Za­heer Ahmed,


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