Fine-tuned art of land-grabbing has acquired a businesslike recognition. News of eight million acres of Punjab government land encroached upon or appropriated by assorted thugs has not alarmed many because it is a logical outcome of lawlessness, absence of state writ, and failure of judiciary. As time passes and the nation cascades into yet lower depth of immorality and naked greed, no news however disquieting seems to unsettle the mind. In fact, absence of such news is disconcerting. Eight million acres have changed hands out of 11.8 million acres of state land. More than half is gone. Who is the Ali Baba and who are his legatees? It is duty of the Punjab government to undo the wrong. It is a formidable challenge for Shahbaz Sharif to wrest government land from the clutches of the mafia. Indefatigable SS has the reputation of an achiever. He is fired with spirit to move things at the pace he himself defines. The legacy he left behind during his previous stint as chief minister was not matched by anyone who later filled his place. Many at the time said he was effective because his senior sibling was the prime minister. It is not so now. In fact, he has to handle an abrasive governor breathing down his neck, which makes him fight on many prongs. Should he be working hard to provide good governance or to parry the governor? Educated citizens appreciate SS for his untiring efforts to do right by the people. But how will he handle the land mafia? It is a powerful lobby comprising influential politicians and bureaucrats. Nobody dare ruffle its feathers because it is deeply entrenched in the system. It's a clique which has ruled the country since its inception. What is wrong with the upper strata of our society? Why it has insatiable greed for more and wants to usurp anything that belongs to someone else. Property in the name of a woman is up for the taking. Residential and agriculture property belonging to widows is regularly grabbed. In posh residential areas, residents illegally occupy road apron in front of their houses, constricting the road for the motorists and the passers-by. Influential resident's even raise improperly designed speed breakers. Residential area I live in belongs to men of law. Anyone here can build a speed breaker in front of his house. Some society it is. But look at the mindset of the residents and the society's administrators. The Punjab government has done a good job of removing encroachments on different roads in Lahore, which now appear much wider and easy to drive by. Anti-encroachment drive must go on even on smaller roads, including the village roads. In fact, encroachers must not only be penalised heavily, they must also foot the cost of removing encroachments. Local police stations be authorised to check encroachments and register cases against the offenders. Lawbreaking does not need to be reported, it must be checked as a routine. Small-time encroachers follow in the footsteps of big swindlers in the nefarious business of land-grabbing. Chaotic traffic has become a bane for motorists and pedestrians alike. Road intersections and turns pose a major hurdle to smooth flow of traffic. On every turn where a motorist requires a larger turning radius, vendors sit to sell their stuff. In all, driving on city roads is an ordeal, a constant struggle and a sign of mal-administration. Leasing out government land on a long term of ninety-nine years (why ninety-nine, why not hundred, is not known) for pittance in fact means selling it. Punjab government will do well to legislate to recover land leased out to influential politicians and bureaucrats. Good governance must be visible and citizens must insist on it as their basic right. The CM needs to overhaul the LDA, which has done more harm to the city than doing any good. Was there any need to allow innumerable CNG stations to spring up in high-density residential areas and roads already congested? At places there are two to three such stations located adjacent to each other. And what is the fault of the residents near whose homes such stations have materialised, causing round the clock cacophony? An old couple, with children abroad, had to sell its twenty years old home when a CNG station came up next door. What a pity Yet another category of grabbers thrives in the land - the loan sharks. About 42.7 billion were written off in the last five years of 'enlightened general's good governance'. 42.7 billion, mind you. Loan sharks are the scoundrels who flaunt their ill-gotten wealth, whose off-springs drive BMWs and monstrous Land Cruisers with dark glasses, and cause social and cultural discontent. On the marriage reception of a politician's son recently held at Model Town, the expense according to the caterer was Rs 2000 per head for 1500 guests. Three million squandered on a single extravaganza. Hard earned money is never wasted like this, it is something else. Do we have a hope for good governance? The writer is a freelance columnist E-mail: