Sunday, September 21, 2014


Gandhara

On Landgrabs, Afghans Say Name Names, But Make Them The Right Ones

Many Afghans accuse people connected to the government of stealing land.
Many Afghans accuse people connected to the government of stealing land.
A major report revealing the names of thousands of alleged land-grabbers in Afghanistan has been released after pressure from lawmakers.

Afghans have long complained about the widespread practice of land-grabbing by well-connected and powerful figures in Kabul and around the country.

To address the issue a special body, the Commission on Monitoring Government Acts of the Afghan Parliament, was set up nearly eight months ago to investigate the seizure of state-owned and private land.

But despite the passing of a draft law by the lower house of parliament in September to prevent land-grabbing, some Afghan lawmakers have been frustrated by what they see as the commission's inaction, in particular in regard to naming names.

Speaking on the phone, Zalmai Mojaddedi, the head of the Commission on Monitoring Government Acts of the Afghan Parliament, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on October 21 that the commission had been "forced to release the report."

"Certainly we did this under pressure. Actually, doing so had its problems from a legal point of view. Unless the court has sentenced someone, we cannot give them to the media and cannot say that they have been sentenced,” Mojaddedi said.

Mojaddedi said that his oversight commission has compiled a 2,500-page report that lists more than 15,000 individuals allegedly involved in grabbing over 500,000 hectares of land, worth $7 billion, mainly in the Helmand, Balkh, Kabul, and Herat provinces.

The report singles out 19 people as the main offenders who are alleged to be involved in taking more than 4,000 hectares of land around Afghanistan. Most of these names are lesser-known individuals, although one of them is Said Ishaq Gilani, a former lawmaker.

Gilani was registered to run in the April 2014 presidential election until he was among 16 candidates disqualified by the Independent Election Commission on October 22. The election commission has said that the candidates were disqualified because of improper documents and because they could not collect the required 100,000 signatures from supporters.

The identity -- and exposure -- of the land-grabbers is a highly charged political issue in Afghanistan, with politicians regularly trading accusations.

According to tolonews.com, commission head Mojaddedi recently accused the party of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former warlord, of being involved in landgrabs -- claims that were rejected by his party.

"There are some circles that have plotted and started conspiracies against Jumbesh-e Milli and the Commission on Monitoring Government Acts of the Afghan Parliament is a part of this," said Tayanj, a spokesman for the party.

Dostum is a running-mate of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadza, a leading reformer and former World Bank executive, in the upcoming election. Unlike the disqualified Gilani, Ghani made the cut and is on the list of 10 remaining contenders in the upcoming presidential race.

The timing of the report's release has been criticized by some Afghan analysts.

Wadir Safi, a law professor at Kabul University, told Radio Free Afghanistan that some lawmakers are trying to purposely discredit some election candidates.

“It seems to be a political maneuver. Other than that, if the government wanted it could have released the names of the land-grabbers beforehand and the land could even have been taken away from them by now," Safi said. Touching on the issue of naming names, Safi said: "I don’t think that the names of big shots can be released under the current government or that their cases will be even sent to court.” 

He added that most of the land-grabbers in the country are the friends and allies of Karzai’s government.

That is a sentiment shared by many ordinary Afghans.

Commenting on Radio Free Afghanistan's Facebook page for young listeners, Arianpoor Afkhami said that the land-grabbing won't be resolved by naming powerless individuals.

“The current list does not include the names of the main land-grabbers. Most of the public properties have been grabbed by high-ranking government officials. The Sherpor area in Kabul, residential areas built in parts of Kandahar, and the lands of Dahana-e Ghori in the Baghlan Province are prominent examples of land-grabbing by senior officials in the current government,” Afkhami said.

Asar Hakimi, a young activist in Kabul, told Radio Free Afghanistan that the list prepared by the oversight commission only contains the names of people who lack connections to the government.

“Even if it contained the names of big shots and powerful individuals, they would have been acquitted by the system. This is actually ridiculing the people of Afghanistan,” Hakimi said.

-- Mustafa Sarwar
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by: Arash from: Kabul
October 24, 2013 10:24
well don good report, but the big problem is in Afghanistan that who is land-grabber make the list. Karzai's brothers, Fahim's brothers also Khalili's brothers are the big land-grabbers.

by: Suroush from: Kabul
October 24, 2013 10:51
Thanks for covering am important issue and I do believe that it will not be solved until we have our next president. Hope that in election we vote in way that can assure us he will address this issue.

by: Khalid Mafton from: Kabul
October 24, 2013 16:47
This outstanding piece courageously discloses the names of few at least couple of land mafia, some of who have been involved in human rights violations and war crimes. Maybe it is a political maneuver by some other high ups; however, it is a good starting point for blood suckers of innocent Afghans to disclose each other’s criminal acts. At this stage, I think, they will not be tried for specific and obvious reason: Lack of willingness within the Afghan government. Nevertheless, hope is blossoming among most Afghans that sooner or later, these people who have reduced Afghans into poverty will be experience what they deserve: Legal punishment. I hope more similar articles disclose other names of land mafia and corrupt officials, be it a law maker, minister, warlord and so on so forth.

by: khaleq from: Finland
October 24, 2013 19:50
It is mentionable that land-grabbing has become such a serious challenge in Afghanistan that unless a dedicated and permanent commission is established for investigating and resolving cases of land grabbing, offenders will remain unidentified and thriving with impunity.

by: Karim from: Australia
October 24, 2013 23:56
Unfortunately those high ups such as Karzai's brother, his vice presidents and many other high ups are EXTRAORDINARY people who can transgress the law and commit whatever crime they want without being punished, just because they're extraordinary ones. And tragically those who are tried and forced to go to prisons are only ORDINARY people who are always and at any rate held accountable for everything and nothing... We need social justice and we need to start it with the extraordinary people....

by: Rasheed from: Kabul
October 25, 2013 11:49
Nice report. But in my country never ruled a person who prefer national interest to his personal one. Presently Afghanistan change as the land of wolves, the wolves (warlords) can do every thing they want, the rest of people have to hide themselves ( to be calm) otherwise they will be bitten by the wolves. the justice sector is not able to punish the wrong and give the rights to the right person.

by: Ahmadi from: Czech republic
October 25, 2013 16:34
Why didn't the commission reveal the names of ministers and other high-ranking government officials allegedly involved in land-grabbing?
Some members of the commission are relatives and friends of powerful land-grabbers.
They [commission members] have accepted bribes and failed to expose real land-grabbers.

by: Breshna Nazari from: Canada
October 25, 2013 21:29
Nice and balanced report, but it is crystal clear that no one can make the mission succeed. As the report mentioned over 500,000 hectares of land have already been grabbed by powerful elements in the government and the lands mostly have been sold out to thousands of ordinary people or their supporters. People have built homes and even factories on these lands. The re-capturing of these grabbed lands can create many social or even security problems around the country. Meanwhile no commission does courage to disclose the real land-grabber names, if so the government and any other internal or external organizations can take action against those land mafias.

by: arianpour from: kabul
October 27, 2013 05:56
Arabic proverb which says a mountain of intense labor pains stopped unexpectedly, causing the skirt of a mouse was born. Special Commission's work in the same way. When a commission is created to solve a problem of high noise at the beginning and at the end there is nothing but advertising does not end of the.
This really should be done is for the Commission to disclose the name of the rapist would start from the top. The first people on earth are mafia rings. I disclose the names of a few percent smaller than those on the right usurped their land will not solve any problems.

by: Sadigh from: Herat
October 27, 2013 18:33
I agree with Arianpour. The mountain roared of labor pain and all of a sudden a MOUSE was born! Such has been the result/s of similar uproars in the Karzai led government. The people of this country have been mocked and ridiculed and lied to time and again. Karzai is lashing and blaming the US and NATO who have provide him with all he is proud of in the past 12 years. Let's suppose that the west has not done any thing in this country, the main question is that what has Karzai and his team done for the country. State owned and private lands have been stolen by most powerful people such as his own family and his vice presidents, what has he done??? NOTHING. The only hope now is the new leadership. But considering the nomination tickets, I doubt that we will prosper in the coming future either. There will another electoral mountain like uproar this time and the new born will be a MOUSE again!!!
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Gandhara is a blog dedicated to Afghanistan and Pakistan written by RFE/RL journalists from Radio Mashaal (Pakistan), Radio Azadi (Afghanistan), our Central Newsroom, and other services. Here, our people on the ground will provide context, analysis, and some opinions on news from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Send comments or questions to gandhara [at] rferl.org.