The launch of Land Records Management and Information System on March 5 can rightfully be termed as a milestone in Pakistan’s history.

The dismantling of 150-200 year old and obsolete system of land management certainly represents a watershed. The old system has held our whole society hostage in one way or the other. There may hardly be any household in the province which may have been safe from the problems emanating from the Patwar culture.

I have described this landmark initiative of the Punjab Government as the historic turning point. The fact of the matter is that it is not just historic but an epoch-making step. Who is not aware of the extraordinary importance that land enjoys in our rural milieu. No other reason explains the litigation that lingers on in our villages for many decades and the enmity that runs through various generations except the mismanagement and tampering with the land records.

Though I do not hail from rural background, I have seen and observed from the close quarters the pain, and anguish that the masses go through due to land disputes. I had reached this conclusion a long time ago that any dream of service to the people living in the rural areas could not be realised without doing away with the Patwar culture and the resultant strong and organised nexus between the land mafia, Qabza groups and corrupt officials.

When I embarked on this great initiative, I was told that this journey was an uphill task strewn with daunting challenges. But if you have the resolve, right intentions and the rock-like determination, there is no challenge that cannot be surmounted.

I do not want to indulge in any point scoring but would like to say this much that had the dictator not deposed the democratically elected government of PML-N, this journey of public service would have continued uninterruptedly under the leadership of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and like other public welfare projects, this project of land computerisation would also have been completed a long time ago.

The then government made tall claims during the dictatorial period. However, like other projects, the land records management project was also put at the backburner. So much so that World Bank, the financial partner of the Punjab Government, got so much disappointed with the then government that it chose to walk out of the partnership. On assuming office, we resumed our work on this project with honesty and dedication and were able to persuade the World Bank to extend its cooperation in the implementation of this project.

Land Record Management and Information System (LRMIS) is a grand project dedicated to public service. Facilitation extended to the people of Punjab and their satisfaction is our biggest certificate. The way the World Bank has generously appreciated this project due to its quality standards, in-built accountability system, and mechanism for elimination of any possibility of corruption is such an example as may be hard to find. The Bank has also commended the incorporation of the world best practices in the design and implementation of the project.

You have heard high-sounding rhetoric about ‘change’ for last many years. But change does not come through mere sloganeering but through action. For change to happen, you need to have your direction right and resolve unwavering. Mere slogans and accusations would not do. You need to burn your proverbial mid-night oil to bring about a lasting change. You need to become personification of hard work and commitment to make this happen.

I would like to invite those raising slogans of change to visit Punjab and see with their own eyes how the new land records management system is changing lives and empowering communities at the grassroots. Perhaps it will help them know what a real change means. I would like to make this announcement that the Punjab Government is ready to extend a helping hand to other provinces in any project of public service.

Thanks to the efforts of the Project Management Unit, 23000 out of 25000 rural estates, after scrutiny and correction of 10 million complex documents, have been computerised. Now the people of Punjab would not have to suffer humiliation at the hands of obsolete Patwar system for soliciting ‘fard’ of their precious lands and completing the mutation in a hassle-free manner. Nor will they need to waste their precious time and resources for resolution of their justified problems regarding their lands.

Today, Arazi Record Centres are rendering service from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in a transparent manner in all 36 districts and 143 Tehsils of Punjab. One lac and fifty thousand people are getting ‘fards’ of land ownership rights every month. In the same way, land transfer deals in the neighbourhood of 50,000 are being approved every month.

I would like to add here that we have not only preserved the 90% record of rural estates of Punjab after computerisation but also removed and corrected 5 million discrepancies. In other words, the lacs of cases of enmities that linger on in our civil courts are due to forgery and tinkering with land record. As a result of LRMIS, the inconsistencies of the past have been corrected. As the facts and figures suggest, the number of land-related litigation has decreased drastically after implementation of this system. I am confident that this system will play an important role in ridding the people of rural areas of court cases and enmities that go on for generations.

You will agree with me that security of life, honour and property of the people is among the foremost responsibilities of any government.

There is, however, no denying the fact that these three things i.e. life, honour and property are somehow directly connected with land ownership in one way or the other in the rural areas of Punjab. Through the computerisation of land records, the Government has instituted a system for people’s well-being, who otherwise remain deprived of justice. The historian will chronicle this feat in golden letters in the annals of history.

It is not just the beneficiaries of the old system who are indignant at the transformation brought about by this system. Rather it has caused consternation among a section of society famously known as the so-called elite who consider the preferential treatment as their birth right. Now all people irrespective of their social status will be required to stand in the same queues to be able to get access to their land records.

This has become possible as a result of this new land record management and information system.

LRMIS is also significant, in that it removes traditional flaws in inheritance and empowers the womenfolk of the province by enabling them to have easy access to their land record.

However, no system of the world is devoid of its faults and shortcomings. When vested interests are hit, they certainly try to invent other ways to circumvent the system. Keeping this in view, a mechanism of identification of flaws, their correction and removal of discrepancies has been spelled out in this system. Sporadic problems may arise here and there. There is, however, zero tolerance for corruption and mismanagement during operation of the LRMIS. I am personally committed to making this system a role model whose benefits reach the common man. It is his welfare and prosperity that keeps motivating and driving me along the way.