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KARACHI: The formal sector of economy of Pakistan’s bustling megacity, Karachi, suffers a staggering annual loss of $2.9 billion due to various mafias.

However, the situation is not unique to Karachi alone, as Pakistan ranks at a dismal 156th out of 190 countries due to a lack of effective institutional mechanisms to counter the menace of land grabbing.

These mafias, including those controlling land, water, and transport, have plagued Karachi for years, and their stronghold shows no sign of loosening.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) head office, Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, FPCCI President expressed his concerns about the issue of land grabbing in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh province.

According to Sheikh, Pakistan ranks 156th worst out of 190 countries on the institutional mechanism to cope with land grabbing, which poses yet another challenge to the ease of doing business in the country.

Moreover, he said, as per the report of the International Crisis Group (ICG), the metropolitan city of Karachi loses $2.9 billion annually in its formal economy due to various mafias.

Sheikh stated that the illegal occupation of industrial, commercial, agricultural, and residential lands through forged documents, outright grabs or encroachments is depleting the country’s resources.

He said that he was under pressure from the business, industry, and trade community to raise this issue with the federal and Sindh governments to find a fair solution, and demanded to establish special courts for litigating land grabbing cases and that culprits be sentenced to up to 10 years in jail, coupled with recovery of land and fines.

Furthermore, Sheikh also demanded abolishing the amendment made for COVID-related circumstances in the 2012 laws applicable to land records.

To address this issue, President FPCCI called on the Sindh government to form an all-inclusive and powerful committee with the provincial revenue minister, FPCCI representatives, law-enforcement agencies’ personnel, Senior Member Board of Revenue (SMBR) Sindh, representatives of the Hyderabad Settlement & Survey Department, and members of the legal fraternity to start resolving the issues of land grabbing in an urgent, time-bound, and transparent manner.

Later, Sheikh warned that if the Sindh government did not pay attention to this issue, the business community may be left with no other option but to form a private security arrangement to protect themselves and their assets.

Mian Nasser Hyatt Maggo, former President FPCCI, suggested that digitalization and biometric verification are the only solutions.

Sheikh, along with other FPCCI officials, urged the Sindh government to take immediate action to resolve the issue of land grabbing to improve the ease of doing business in the country and ensure the protection of the lives, properties, and businesses of the taxpayers and law-abiding citizens.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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