LAHORE: As many as 50 gangs of land grabbers are operating in the province, and are occupying commercial and agricultural land belonging to the state and citizens, sources told Daily Times.

The sources said according to the ‘Black Book’ prepared by the Home Department and the Punjab Police Special Branch, these land grabbers have the support of lawyers, politicians, police officers, revenue officers, defunct religious organisations and local landlords.

The ‘Black Book’ has the names, profile, addresses, previous criminal record and pictures of members of these gangs. It also has the profiles of those who are backing these gangs, they said. The land grabbers are active in Lahore, Multan, Bahawalnagar, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Khanewal and Layyah, where there are large tracts of state land, the sources said.

Operations: They said there are 26 such land grabbing groups in Bahawalpur, three in Faisalabad, six in Lahore, one in Bahawalnagar, five in Gujranwala, six in Khanewal and two in Layyah. Sources in the Chief Minister’s Secretariat told Daily Times that the land grabbing mafia mushroomed over the last decade, with some gangs illegally occupying state and private land worth billions of rupees.

They said the Board of Revenue had provided lists of such gangs and details of government-owned commercial and agricultural land illegally occupied by them. The sources said these gangs had managed to get large tracts of land allotted through bogus entries in the revenue record with the help of Revenue Department officials. They then got possession of the land with the help of police, they said.

In July 2008, the Punjab government constituted a 28-member provincial task force against land grabbers. It was headed by the chief minister. The members included the provincial law and revenue ministers, the chief secretary, the Board of Revenue senior member, various administrative secretaries, the provincial police officer and the Anti-Corruption Establishment director general among others. The home secretary was the secretary of the task force.

Sources said the task force would take action against the land grabbers identified by the police and Revenue Department and would return the land to the real owners.

Action: They said the influential people backing the illegal occupiers would also be dealt with an iron hand.

On July 20, the Chief Minister’s Secretariat convened a workshop of district revenue officers to evolve a strategy to crack down on the mafia. The participants recommended a four-phase action plan against the mafia. Sources said commercial land belonging to the state would be retrieved in the first phase.

Source: Daily Times