Sumera B. Reshi
Corruption is widespread across the countries and it certainly is a major problem hindering the wellbeing of the people. The menace of corruption in the form of feudalism is now coming increasingly into sharp focus. In many countries, rising inequality and irresolute trust feed a perception of unfairness and the belief that elites play by different rules. In response, governments are showing an increasing willingness to get to grips with this problem.
Importantly, they understand that systemic corruption is not just a moral and political problem but also an economic one.
American educational philosopher, Robert Hutchins rightly said that “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”
The corruption nourishes and flourishes in South Asia particularly in Pakistan. Since the tiny country came into being and dreamt of being a secular, democratic Islamic state, however, it could not realize its dream of being a modern democratic country. On the ground, things hardly changed since its birth.
The country still believes and lives in Feudal set-up and many believe that feudalism is the real cause of the country’s plight and its abolishment is the only solution to Pakistan’s ordeals. Each fabric and every thread of Pakistan is in the tight grip of feudalism which has nurtured the culture of apathy and injustice across the length and breadth of the country.
Pakistan inherited feudalism as an independence gift. Had Pakistan implemented Land Reforms in 1947 or later like India did in 1953, the country would have been different. Unfortunately, Pakistan has been pierced with feudal lords who actually form the governments, make laws and get benefitted. The land revenue system which was prevalent in medieval times still exists in Pakistan and lands where it has direct or indirect control.
Often people claim and blame the Muslim monarchs of medieval India for a system which gives landlords an upper hand and an authority, particularly Jalal-ud-Din Akbar’s mansabdari system. Nonetheless, the study reveals that it wasn’t Akbar’s legacy rather the British colonizers of the subcontinent are the real perpetrators. The British while leaving the subcontinent left us with a parasitical curse called feudalism and till date, Pakistan and its allied states have failed completely to get rid of it.
Since Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) is under the control of Pakistan, instead of feudalism, patwari system & police mafia have permeated and spread its ambit and influence. Since long, Kashmir is known for its purity and piousness and a revered land of saints, however, the corruption in the form of undefined patwari system copied from Pakistan and fostered by the local government has turned PaK into a land of impious and hooligans.
Even the local police aren’t missing any moment to wrestle their muscle and browbeat the local populace with the help of patwaris. The actual residents are concerned about the legality of their. Despite the fact that feudalism no longer exists in PaK, small land holding still prevails in the society.
Moreover, it is believed that the land record and revenue department are responsible for a majority of murders in PaK. Research explores that the Land Administration System (LAS) in PaK is systematized on the traditional and primitive system of land registers and maps are same as those adopted by 16th Century ruler Sher Shah Suri.
In contrast, the ruling elite in PaK always asserts that they are committed to providing good governance to the state and are working to revamp the Land Revenue System (LRS) but in reality, the situation is altogether different.
The high handedness by the patwari’s and a greater involvement of the local police has persuaded the masses to take the law into their hands. Thus, the situation has aggravated the rate of heinous crimes in the paradise. According to jail records, over the past two decades murder cases in AJK have risen by more than 80 per cent. Most of these murders took place over land disputes.
The main player of corruption in PaK is the patwari system. The system thrived particularly in the tenure of Muslim Conference. The patwaris are recruited on the basis of their affiliation with the ruling party so that the corrupt procedures are carried out smoothly without any barricade, objection and impediment. Patwari’s are the agents of the ruling elite who raise their funds by committing land frauds.
Moreover, the Police get bribes and do everything in their power to frustrate the victims of the fraud and stay on the side of the conspirators. The corrupt culture is rife at the local court levels where problems are created for the complainants and in many cases their paperwork is dislocated and their case files disappear or the papers go missing.
“This is the worst system in PaK and it has led to many disputes amongst the populace. For instance, if I have a piece of land on the right side of the road but patwari will direct me to the left side of the road and the reason is that they take whooping amounts of money from the people to exchange the location of the land. From the very first stage of our administrative setup, the rot increases once you climb up the administrative ladder. From patwari to the top brass politician or a bureaucrat, the system is stingy. Patwari’s are the local agents of bureaucracy to raise funds or mint the money through illegal ways,” said one of the Non-resident Kashmiri in the UAE.
“This happened to me as well. I owned a piece of land across the road and when I started to construct a house, I was asked that the land has been transferred to another place on the other side of the road and this surprised me,” he added
From the very low-level employee to top brass bureaucrat, all are connected in the pyramid of corruption. A Patwari set the rules, he demands the amount but he is not the only one who takes the share to the home. The amount received from the land fraud is shared among all the revenue officials.
Patwari, tehsildar and even the top brass bureaucrats. Therefore, land mafia in PaK is unbeaten and surpasses all the boundaries of decency. Both parties who fight for their legitimate land rights have to pay the hefty price and even the court proceedings go on for years. And if the court gives the verdict in A’s favor, B will again reopen the case. Thus, the proceedings go on for years, making the local lawyers quite rich. From session court to high court people try to fight land mafia and lose all their savings.
“My in-laws fought the case of land grabbing for 30 years even though the court couldn’t provide justice to them. Thanks to the Patwari of that area who took money from the other party and transferred the piece of land in their name although the land belonged to my in-laws. In PaK, it is difficult to survive in such an anarchy”, said Mohd. Jabbar Khan, a resident of Rawlakot.
Further, if a dignitary or bureaucrat has to visit any district in PaK, naib tehsildar or his supervisor is supposed to coordinate the tour, meals, accommodation and other miscellaneous procedures & expenses but in PaK, Tehsildar assigns this job to a patwari.
So Patwaris have to organize funds to host visits of dignitaries such as the AJK president, the prime minister, ministers, chief secretary, commissioners, deputy commissioners and even visits of personal guests of these government functionaries are the responsibility of the patwari.
A patwari is a basic pay scale (BPS) grade-5 employee and one of the lowest functionaries of the revenue department, who is burdened with, well, generating revenue for the government but he can’t manage the expense from his pocket, therefore, he subtly or openly asks his clients for the money because he has to arrange the feast for the bureaucrat or a dignitary.
This is the irony that the state doesn’t approve funds for the officials’ trip. In this manner, a local resident is an easy scapegoat and hence falls into the trap.
Hence an official trip of the bureaucrat isn’t a burden on the exchequer. The money comes from the local’s pocket. So, this is also an undefined tax and a lumber on the local populace. The land maps and the records are the responsibility of the Revenue Department.
The corruption which starts from a patwari has the actual resource from the top. The directions and advice come from the top official in the pyramid of revenue department in PaK.
In 2018, the AJK Election Commission handed over the huge task of preparing voter lists and wards at village levels to the patwaris without allocating funds to them for this purpose.
“We have been directed by the government to prepare voter lists at the village-level in our jurisdiction at our own expense,” patwaris in the Poonch District said to the tribune.com.pk.
“I have been working as a patwari for the past 19 years and I am still getting paid only Rs32,000 per month as salary,” a local patwari said to the tribune.com.pk
The patwari admitted that he was appointed in BPS-5 at a salary of Rs2,300 per month after clearing a test interview. However, to qualify for the job, he had to work with a patwari for at least five years without any salary as he admitted to occasionally taking bribes to either tamper or alter land records.
And of late, the authorities in PaK have begun to maintain land records through a computerized system to keep track of land data.
With the help of digitalization, land records will be issued within 30 minutes and the transfer of ownership in just 50 minutes, according to Director General, Azad Jammu & Kashmir Information Technology Board (AJKITB) Sarwar Gondal.
Further, as per Gondal the ownership of the land will now be claimed through biometric data records, and will end the practice of fraud and fake documentation in the land and revenue department.
As ill luck would have it, one side of the paradise is reeling under conflict and this side of paradise is facing the brunt of land mafia. Mehbooba is an utter failure in Indian administered Kashmir and now it has to be seen whether Raja Farooq Haider, the sitting Prime Minister of PaK walk the talk and help the people to off-load the land mafia?