One of the most pressing issues in Pakistan, and a big factor behind the backlog of cases in the courts, is ownership of land and land mafias. Prime Minister Imran Khan in this regard has urged complete digitisation of land records, and recently launched the cadastral map of Islamabad to curb land record tampering, ensure monitoring of construction through imagery and provide information about land ownership.
This initiative has been launched after information was shared with the Prime Minister a few months ago during a meeting of the National Coordination Committee for Housing, Construction and Development, where he was briefed about the digitization of land records in different provinces by the Survey General of Pakistan. According to the data, Punjab has digitised 92 per cent land records and 100 per cent crop reporting system. KPK had digitised approximately 50 percent land records and 6-7 per cent crops reporting system. Balochistan had digitized land records of only 4 districts. Land records of Sindh were being scanned and retrieved on demand.
Secure land tenure and property rights are fundamental to shelter and livelihoods that serve as cornerstones for the realization of human rights and poverty reduction. While this project should be completed on priority, the government must also look at the progress already made, especially in Punjab, where the authorities launched the comprehensive online portal named as Land Record Management and Information System. Under this, the Punjab Land Records Authority (PLRA) has decided to issue “Fards” (record of ownership) online. However, the system’s functionality is in question—the process of issuing fards has been reported as extremely slow and full of red-tape. According to the LRA, they have hired more staff for the Arazi Record Center (ACR) to expedite the process of issuing online fards and have also launched an Android app called Digital-PLRA to spread awareness.
In order to expedite and make more efficient this national digitisation system, the government should rely on the data already available in Punjab, as well as utilise the lessons on how to go about the digital system—a complete overhaul and transformation of this process is required.