Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has promised that his party – if came into power – would digitize the land and revenue records in all provinces. Addressing a public rally on May 4, 2013 at Haripur in Khyber Pakhtunhwa, Khan said PTI wanted to digitize the land and revenue records across the country and resolve all the disputes related to lands and properties out of courts, as was done in the era of British Raj. Besides, reiterating the promise in election rallies, Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf’s manifesto has also listed digitization of land and revenue records as a priority agenda item on page 24, under the title of “Land Reforms”.
Talking to Truth Tracker, Ali Amin Gandapur, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Minister for Land and Revenue Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that computerization of land and revenue records is already in progress. “The process has been started in seven districts and – in Peshawar – 60 percent of the revenue department records has been computerized,” he said. The minister said that the project – computerization of revenue records – is aimed at abolishing the centuries-old patwari culture and ending corruption in the revenue system. It will take a year to computerize the land records in all 26 districts of the province. “Once the process [introducing modern methodology in revenue system] is complete, the corruption-ridden patwari culture will end automatically, besides facilitating people in obtaining land records easily,” Gandapur said.
Pakistan has a centuries-old system of managing the land and revenue records. In this system, most of the powers related to land and revenue are concentrated in the hands of a lowest-level official of the revenue departments known as Patwari. Patwari has the sole responsibility for assessing, collecting agriculture revenue, recording inheritance, handling sale and transfer of land and maintaining all records of its area of jurisdiction. Patwari is considered to be a notorious public official and a main source of corruption in the revenue department and a cause of property disputes in towns and villages. Cleansing the revenue department of corruption and ending Patwari culture by computerizing all the records were the popular slogans of PTI leaders during campaigns in the run-up to May 11 elections. To streamline the affairs of the revenue department, the former PMLN- led provincial administration in Punjab first initiated a project on June 18, 2012 called as Land Records Management Information System (LRMIS). Keeping in view the rampant corruption in the revenue and land department, the supreme court of Pakistan also issued directives last year to all the provinces to digitize records of the land and revenue system within three months. The former government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa led by the nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) also launched the digitization of land records but failed to complete the project due to hurdles put forward by the corruption mafia in the process. It is worth mentioning here that billion of rupees have been spent on various programs of land record computerization by various governments in the past, but all have ended up as futile exercises.
A former member of the provincial assembly and expert on legal affairs, Mussrat Shafi, talking to Truth Tracker, said computerization of land and revenue records is a complex issue that could not be resolved in months. The general public, she said, will benefit from digitized revenue records once records of the deaths and births certificates are computerized and linked electronically to the database of National Database Registration Authority (NADRA). Mussrat asked for deputing honest and skilled staff for data computerization. “Once wrong data is entered in system then it will create more problems and difficulties for people in the future,” she said.
A senior lawyer and former member of provincial assembly from Kohat district, Aurangzeb Khan, said the conventional system of land record and revenue assessment is centuries old; not in consonance with needs and requirements of 21st century. “Most of the [land] records are outdated…distorted, unsafe and need to be computerized,” says Khan. As a member of the provincial assembly in 1993, Khan said he had then proposed a bill for computerization of land records, but due attention was not given to the proposal. The “PTI [provincial government] will fulfill the promise of the land record computerization project subject to deputing sincere and skilled people for the project,” says the former parliamentarian.
The available information reveals the fact that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is in the process of taking steps and that work on the computerization of land record is under way. Truth Tracker suggests that expert firms need to be engaged in the project and arrangements should be made for imparting computer training to all the staff of the revenue and land department.