More than 150 homes have reportedly been demolished by security forces in Balkh, informs Paiwandgāh Citizen Journalist Kobra Akbari.
These homes were located in Shahrak Naw of Ali Abad in Mazar-e-Sharif close to Balkh University. Local residents claim that three individuals were also injured in this process, while 18 others have been arrested.
Mohammad Ibrahim Khair Andish, head of provincial council of Balkh, says conflict over this land has been ongoing for the past two decades. “Those who have built these homes have legal documents,” he adds. “The authorities did not serve any evacuation notice before destroying these homes.”
There have been claims that these homes were allegedly destroyed by Atta Mohd Noor, acting governor of Mazar-e-Sharif. However, Atta Mohd Noor has rejected these claims.
Although Khair Andish has said, “You can’t hide the sun with two fingers,” which implies that it is clear that the land does indeed belong to the local people.
Local residents and owners of those houses claim that about 100 acres of land was distributed among them by the people of Qezel Abad people around six months ago. They add that they have legal documents to prove that. “Some of them have not even paid for bricks, woods and cements,” they say.
People of Qezel Abad, on the other hand, claim hereditary ownership of the land and say that it has belonged with them since the time of King Abdul Rahman.
It is estimated that around 700 acres of land belongs to Qezel Abad people which was purchased it for 1460 Kabul Rupees during the reign of the King Abdul Rahman in 1880s, but now government isn’t letting them build on it now.
Another Citizen Journalist Bashir Sarwary from Mazar-e-Sharif informed that people who have legal documents of those lands say that they have bought it from the people belonging to Hizb-e-Wahdat Islami party, however now those associated with Atta Noor claim ownership of the land.
People believe that the value of this land has risen after the new University of Balkh was built nearby. Local authorities say that these lands belong to the government and building homes on them is prohibited. There are plans to build a township here, they add.
But people claim that local government is only prohibiting those with valuable land with good geographical locations. Qezel Abad people say that these lands were agricultural lands till about a year ago, and government have prohibited them to cultivate anything since one year.
Residents of this area have come out in protest. “Government had promised to resolve this issue, but instead they destroyed the homes,” they said.
Our Citizen Journalist made several attempts to get inputs from Mirza Hussian, head of Qezel Abad people, as well as from Shaikh Abbas, responsible for distributing Ali Abad lands, but were not able to.
The dispute over land ownership has been ongoing since several years and has, in the past, resulted in violent clashes.