KARACHI - The local administration of Benazirabad district – hometown of President Asif Ali Zardari – is reportedly forcing poor farmers to sell at least 1,005 fertile and costly pieces of agricultural land at throwaway prices, Pakistan Today learnt.
The agricultural lands are situated in Deh Chann Biar, Sakrand taluka, the most prime location of the town, however, local administration, particularly revenue authorities, are urging poor growers to sell their centuries-old fertile agricultural land, harassing and threatening them with dire consequences upon their failure to do so.
The purpose for which the land is being apparently acquired is said to be "projects in the pipeline", sources in the Board of Revenue told Pakistan Today.
The Sakrand assistant commissioner (land acquisition officer), Saleem Memon, issued notices to 150 growers on April 4, 2012 informing them about the one-sided decision of the revenue authorities.
"Notice is hereby given under Section 9 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 that land specified in the Sub-joined schedule in Deh Chann Biar, taluka Sakrand, district Shaheed Benazirabad, which has been acquired for a public purpose viz different projects in pipeline, district Shaheed Benazirabad. In accordance with notification under Section-4 issued by defunct district officer (Revenue), Shaheed Benazirabad vide notification No 450 dated Nil duly published in Sindh Government Gazette dated 8-11-2010 (Pages 428-429) read with corrigendum No RB/Asstt/115 dated 22-3-2011 published in Sindh Government Gazette dated 28-3-2011 (Page No 66-67) and also declared under Section 6 vide notification No RB/Asstt/473 dated 27-11-2010 issued by the defunct Executive District Officer (Revenue) Shaheed Benazirabad published in Sindh government Gazette dated 29-11-2010 (Pages 447-448) read with corrigendum No RB/Asstt/128 dated 31-3-2011 published in Sindh government Gazette dated 2-4-2011 (Page No 73-73),” according to a letter. "All persons interested in the land mentioned below are hereby required to appear personally or by their authorized agents on the date mention, in the schedule in the office of undersigned and to submit:
I) A statement in writing signed by them or by their authorized agents showing the nature of the respective interest in the land herein below mentioned the amount and particulars of their claim's compensation for such interest and their objections, if any, to the measurement and area of the land which has been acquired,
II) A statement under section 10 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 containing so far as may be practicable, the name of every person possessing any interest in or light over the land or any part there-of as co-proprietor, sub-proprietor, mortgagee, tenant or otherwise receivable on of the nature of such interest and of the rents, profits (if any), received or account there of for three years next proceeding the date of the statement,” it added.
After the notice, sources said a majority of growers, including Ghulam Mustafa Unar, Ghulam Murtaza Unar, Taj Unar, Atta Muhammad, Muhammad Hashim, Abdul Hameed, Jan Mohammad, Ghulam Hyder, Abdul Qayoom, Sojhro, Muhammad Khan, Naimatullah, Noorullah, Nawaz Ali, Muhammad Acher and Muhammad Malook expressed their reservations and refused to give their centuries-old land to the district government at throw-away prices.
Another letter forwarded by the assistant commissioner (land acquisition officer) to the Senior Member Board of Revenue Shahzar Shamoon suggested that the land acquisition be de-notified and the rate for the acquisition may be enhanced. "Substance of the objections/claims is that the land acquired is situated at aa prime location and is fit for residential and commercial purpose. Average value of fully fertile agriculture land in the locality is not less than Rs 5,000,000/ per acre, therefore, existing value of the land, which they deserve to get compensation @ the rate of Rs 500/ per square foot with other benefits as provided in section 23, 28 A and 34 of the Land Acquisition Act", the letter said. "That the land is being acquired for development projects in pipeline from which it is clear that no project is approved or sanctioned and, therefore, they have serious objection to the acquisition of the land, which may be de-notified from acquisition and that if it is decided to acquire the land, the compensation at the rate of Rs 500 per sq foot may be paid with value of buildings, structure and trees standing on the land,” the letter added.
Sources claimed that the district revenue officials were issuing threats to poor growers for forcible acquisition of their land. The rate for the land was quoted at Rs 5 million per acre by the assistant commissioner in his letter; however, the authorities were now offering only Rs 200,000 per acre.
Ghulam Irtaza Unnar alias Shahrukh Unnar, who leads the affected 150 khatedars and more than 15,000 poor villagers, told Pakistan Today that the revenue authorities were trying to deprive them of their fertile lands. "As per the official procedure, each department has to prepare a PC-I of the proposed project, then funds are allocated and finally the district government compensates the land owners as per the market value. The assistant commissioner Sakrand has clearly stated that he has been told to give the land owners Rs 50,000 per acre however he (assistant commissioner) is giving us a favor by pricing our land at Rs 250,000 per acre," Irtaza claimed.
"We will not give even an inch of land to revenue officials on their proposed rate. We demand justice," he said.