Some dwellers of Chewodok, originally owned by the state of Chitral, have complained that a committee formed by the current Mehtar is conducting a survey of the houses and accommodating more people in the area creating discomfort for the dwellers.
They said former Mehtar Nasirul Mulk and his cousin Assadur Rahman as well as the current Mehtar and his late father had allotted land to poor people, especially those who migrated from remote areas of Chitral, in Chewodok.
The verification and documentation of the dwellers started after it emerged that some of those given land by the royal family on humanitarian ground had either encroached on adjacent land or sold off their property to others.
Now a committee is surveying the dwellers and verifying their documents and the land in their possession. In case of an extra land in possession of the allottee it is retrieved and allotted to someone else, said a deweller.
This is being done for the first time as in the past no prince had allowed such a practice, said a dweller. He said the present Mehtar was compassionate to the dwellers and had also allotted lands for graveyards and water tanks etc, he added.
But the committee members are creating problems for the dwellers and trying to snatch some piece of land from them to accommodate other people in the area. This could create problems for the dwellers and may also pitch the settlers against the newcomers, he alleged.
When contacted, former village council nazim Saeed Ahmed confirmed to ChitralToday that a committee was in the process of surveying the area.
He said Chewodok was a hilly area and the royal family had in the past allocated land to poor people and the current Mehtar also accommodated many more there.
“But it is not easy to start constructing house in Chewodok, a hilly area, after you get a piece of land there even free of cost. Lots of work such as landscaping is required that cost at least three to four lacs rupees,” he added.
Moreover, as population continued increasing, issues such as lack of water, sanitation and graveyards are increasing.
He said the water supply network in the area had been established through an NGO many years ago but the consumers were now facing shortage of water.
Instead of cramming people on humanitarian ground in Chewodok the Mehtar could gift land to the poor people in other areas such as Shadok. Secondly, he added, the Mehtar might not be aware of what way the members of the committee are dealing with the dwellers in Chewodok.
The Mehtar must have ordered formation of the committee with good intention but most of its members are creating issues for the dwellers and are also at odds with each other, said Mr Ahmed.
When ChitralToday contacted Mehtar Fateh-Ul-Mulk Ali Nasir, he said the village committee has every right to ascertain whether or not people have been gifted the land or whether they have illegally occupied it. Regardless, no one is being deprived of their homes, even if they have illegally constructed/occupied.
There are people who have occupied acres of land and have no documents to prove their ownership. The committee is tasked with ascertaining how much land each person has according to his gift deed (sanad) and for this purpose they at times have to measure the land as well.
The biggest issue is that these people often commercially sell off lands which have been gifted to poor landless people. The committee is there to ascertain the rights of all of the people of Chewodok.
“All of the land has been gifted by my father, his uncle and myself. Not a single inch has been sold. Yes, many people have further sold their lands to others and have also illegally occupied land to sell, this is the main issue the committee handles.”
Mehtar’s Secretary Nishan-e-Haider explained to ChitralToday that over 350 families have constructed homes on land given by the current Mehtar and his father and uncle to them free of cost.
He said the current committee headed by Musarat Baig of Bakamak is the third one as two committees had been constituted in the past as well.
He said besides selling off the land donated to the dwellers by the royal family, some allottees constructed houses on the gifted land and encroached on adjacent land as well.
The committee is verifying the land under the possession of the dwellers in accordance with the documents and if anyone has encroached on land above that allocated to them it is taken back and given to other needy people.
This committee has so far accommodated 15 families on land retrieved from the dwellers, Mr Haider added.