The issue of land mafia activities in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan continues to be a pressing concern, with unlawful land seizures occurring through forceful or deceitful means for real estate or monetary gain.
This endangers legitimate owners and inhabitants, subjecting them to eviction and property loss. A recent protest outside the Gilgit Press Club shed light on encroachments on grazing lands in the upper Astore area.
Protesters, wielding placards and chanting slogans, vehemently denounced the injustices perpetrated towards them. They asserted that despite reaching out to authorities, the land grabbers persisted in their activities.
“Certain individuals are supporting the land mafia and systematically rejecting our applications. We, the residents of five villages, are protesting this injustice. Force Commander! You are familiar with the situation. We urge you to investigate the matter. We also call upon the Chief Justice to take suo motu action on this issue, and the Chief Secretary, who oversees all settlements, to thoroughly investigate this fraudulent settlement,” said Abdul Manaf, one the protestors.

The demonstration at the Gilgit Press Club brought attention to systemic issues wherein marginalised communities contend with powerful interests, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive reforms to address these entrenched injustices.

“Residents near the Line of Control have protested for their land rights. Their lands were settled in a single night. At midnight, two or three people called in settlement officials, and the local residents were quickly sent away. The residents, being illiterate, could not understand what was happening. When they eventually learned about the settlement, they approached the relevant departments but were denied access to the records. It is likely that influential people were backing the settlement, leading to the denial of access. The residents have lodged complaints with the department, questioning how the lands could be transferred without consulting the actual owners,” added another protester.

The protest against land grabbing in PoGB reflects the residents’ ongoing struggle against the encroachment of the land mafia. Despite their protests and appeals to authorities, many face challenges in reclaiming their rightful land. The testimonies of the protesters highlight the injustice and frustration experienced by local communities, marginalised and denied access to their own lands. (ANI)