LAHORE - The Punjab government has decided to outsource issuance of fard (land possession document) after failure of the Punjab Land Records Authority (PLRA) to perform its duties effectively.

The Punjab Chief Minister’s Office has constituted a committee to oversee outsourcing of fard – the only function transferred to the authority from the Board of Revenue (BOR) to bring an end to the notorious patwari culture.

The committee consists of ministers for law, finance and revenue, chief secretary, PLRA DG, Board of Revenue senior member, P&D Board chairman, finance secretary, Bank of Punjab president and Quaid-i-Azam Thermal Power Limited (QATPL) CEO. The committee will sort out modalities for outsourcing of fard and decide fee for this purpose.

A member of the Board of Revenue told The Nation that there was a tussle between ADLRs and Service Centre Incharge because both claim they head the arazi centres at tehsil level. He said the patwari system used to prepare land record every four years that was shelved. “It was easy to point out any land tampering,” he said, adding that blunders were reported in computerisation process but no one bothered.

He called for forensic audit of land record computerisation. He mentioned arrest of PLRA Project Deputy Director Maqbool Dhawla on charges of corruption and questioned fairness of other staff.

PLRA DG Iqbal had reportedly said that 210,000 fard documents and 85,000 transfer deeds were being issued at arazi centres every month. A total of Rs800 million revenue per month was being generated, he asserted. Before the PLRA was established, some two million registered documents were attested but no amount was deposited to the national exchequer.  People will be issued fard on their doorstep in five major cities of the province, including Lahore, DG Iqbal said.

An official said that issuance of fard was the only job transferred to PLRA and that too was being given to private parties. He said the PML-N government took the step to win the rural vote as elections are approaching fast. He said that instead of getting rid of patwaris, arazi centres staff engaged patwaris to mint money from farmers.

“The arazi centre is used to tell a fard seeker: ‘Since your land falls in the khewat (joint land block), you need to first get a report from the patwari to unlock it.’ The patwari demands money for this purpose that is shared by him and arazi centre staff,” he explained.

An assistant director of Land Records (ADLR) also confirmed the official’s claims. The official also questioned formation of a committee to look after the outsourcing process. He said instead of grilling the DG, who failed to introduce a system to deliver, the service was being privatised.

Moreover, a case of illegal recruitments to the authority is still pending in the anti-corruption court.  Many people had questioned mutations, land transactions and issuance of ‘fard’ made by arazi centre officials whom the authority had declared illegal job holders.

PLRA DG Zafar Iqbal was not available to comment on the issue. However, a PLRA officer said on condition of anonymity that the Land Records Management Information System (LRMIS) was developed in 2005 and the authority was set up in 2017.  Over Rs13 billion rupees were spent on it and the Punjab government was still funding it. The DG, additional DG, directors and other officers were drawing salaries like company officials.