The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has unearthed a mega corruption scam in Punjab. Over nine hundred acres of land worth Rs 5 billion owned by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) was silently transferred to private individuals by officials of the provincial revenue department. Reports suggest that the land was being illegally transferred since 1952 and some arrests would be made shortly from the board.

The FIA has helped ETPB to transfer the land back to its name. The ETPB should not be let near the land again, if this is what it has been up to. We can only speculate who was sleeping on their job, since 1952, that this went on unnoticed. Officials from the ETPB can hardly be assumed to be innocent.

The prime land was located in Deepular area of district Okara and this is not the only land scam we have seen recently. The director FIA Punjab also told the meeting that 238 kanals of land worth 4 billion illegally given to the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Lahore, had also been returned. It is not just the civilian bureaucracy that is corrupt and exploitative. In September, the Supreme Court was informed that the Eden Life Housing Scheme in Lahore was a total fraud. DHA was again involved; the chief executive of this housing scheme, Hammad Arshad, has taken a loan of Rs800 million from Faisal Bank against this land and already sold 1,248 kanals to DHA.

The fact of the matter is that the whole setup of governance since the 1950s has been about the creation of extractive institutions. Many of the “mega corruption” scandals we have been seeing are part and parcel this. The land mafia is king, whether in Sindh or Punjab and it has deep roots in all the major political parties. However, because these scams are so old and so big, just a little bit of digging is bringing out all the hidden bones.

The problem is widespread. In Lahore, there is a well-connected land mafia that keeps its eyes on uninhabited plots and buildings in prime areas and moves in with fake ID cards to take possession, leaving the real owners (often living abroad) to then pursue the case in the courts for years.

In light of such revelations, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar is highly irked by the high rate of bails in under-trial mega corruption cases. He has directed the FIA to strengthen its legal team for taking the same to logical conclusion at the earliest. However, one wonders if the FIA is at all up to the task when it come to the arrest and prosecution of big names.