Kirpa village land — a fighting prize
For decades, Kirpa village was considered a large swathe of rural area of little allure or profit, but all of a sudden its residents found themselves at the centre of a violent tussle as nearby development work increased its value overnight.
In the third week of October, Kirpa villagers saw policemen swoop down and conduct an operation against the land mafia without even involving the local police which are alleged to be party to the conflict.
While the police were successful in removing encroachments and armed men who were patrolling the area, the ownership status remains unresolved to date.
Life in rural Kirpa was relatively peaceful till, Mr Waheed, a local villager, told Dawn, “the National Highway Authority Housing Colony was built on adjacent land”.
Since then two groups, known as Raja Aftab group and Raja Aurangzaib group, have claimed rights over 13,336 kanals in the village and both intend to build a housing society on it.
On the other hand, the local villagers who belong to the Rajput clan claim it belongs to them under common land or shamlat.
Needless to say, the sudden security issues that arose saw the livelihood of local villagers threatened.
“A shepherd who would tend the animals has been forced out of work because villagers do not want to take the risk of letting their animals graze land,” explained Mr Waheed.
Another adjacent piece of land measuring 2,700 kanals whose ownership was not known was also occupied.
Other villagers that Dawn spoke to claimed that both groups enjoy political support: Aurangzaib is backed by the local Khokhar clan, while Aftab enjoys the support of a local legislator.
Things took a turn for worse in the second week of September when Aftab’s group managed to force out his rivals.
For the next three weeks, the villagers were involved in gun battles with both the groups, who eventually managed to construct dozens of bunkers and deployed 50 to 60 people armed with modern and sophisticated weapons.
“The villagers were stuck in their homes with animals in fear of their lives due to massive firing from both sides,” claimed a villager.
Finally, a group of villagers managed to meet the Superintendent of Police Rural Area Sardar Sadaqat and brought the matter to his knowledge.
“In response the SP Rural Area along with police force from Sihala, Banigala, Lohi Bher and Shahzad Town and anti-riot unit, anti-terrorism squad and reserve force raided the land on October 19,” revealed a police officer.
“The Kural police was not informed about the raid nor included in the raiding team,” he added.
All bunkers were demolished, a police post was set up and a contingent of police deployed there to guard the land.
The officer said on the request of the police, the assistant commissioner of the area took the land in government custody to avoid any mishaps in future.
“Three separate cases have been registered but, no arrest has been made as all the accused nominated in the cases have escaped,” the officer said.
“The police are still in dark over the ownership of the land. The villagers and the two groups were also approached and asked to prove the land’s ownership, but so far no one has come to the police, assistant commissioner or the tehsildar in this regard,” he concluded.