Islamabad  -   Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said the government has decided to declare the concealing of land and property a criminal offence and the laws for this purpose will be framed soon.

Addressing an international Housing Conference here yesterday, he also announced to launch next month a major housing project to build five million units for low-income groups.

The project is part of government efforts to cope with the housing problem of the country and under this scheme, the poor would be provided house financing that was just a dream in the past, the PM said.

“There is a demand for 10 million houses in the country. We have set our target at five million but even that is an ambitious one considering the lack of infrastructure,” he elaborated.

He explained that all the planning and execution of this gigantic project will be done by the private sector while government would act as a facilitator.

Khan also said the government has decided to encourage the construction of high-rise buildings to meet growing housing demand and conserve space for agricultural and other purposes.

The prime minister said that the growth of 40 industries is linked with the housing sector and the government desires the youngsters to come up in this project and form new companies.

He said housing programme would also benefit the tribal areas through the house financing as the area had suffered a lot due to lawlessness.

The prime minister said the project had drawn surprising response from Chinese as well as Malaysian companies and he lauded the World Bank for hosting the much-needed workshops on the housing sector.

On the occasion, a Memorandum of Understanding was also signed between Pakistan and the World Bank for cooperation in housing sector.



Property concealment

The prime minister said the government also plans to establish a land bank by retrieving land from land grabbers and utilising the dead capital of government departments.

The government has decided to make land and property concealment a criminal offence, he said. The officials helping those who grab or conceal land will also be taken to task, he announced.

“The decision [of criminalising land concealment] was made at the last meeting of the federal cabinet,” the prime minister said.

“Over recent months, we have retrieved occupied land worth Rs500 billion just in Islamabad. People have become billionaires by occupying lands and hiding properties. Till today, property and holdings are being hidden from the government,” he went on to say.



Vertical construction

The prime minister said the government has decided to allow maximum vertical buildings all around except within the landing and take-off zones of the airports.

The vertical constructions would help save the arable land being eaten up by the massive growth of the housing societies.

Lauding the performance of the Housing Task Force, Prime Minister Khan said the body would also benefit from the Singapore style of housing to ensure the efficient use of land.

“We have to allow housing to grow vertically. Our arable land is being used up and threatens our food security. We will encourage more vertical construction. Singapore is the best example and our task force is learning from them,” he said.



Squatter settlements

The prime minister also shared the government’s plans for the uplift of squatter settlements.

“There has never been any planning for these settlements. There are no facilities for the poor and, usually, boundary walls are raised around them to keep them out of the elite’s view,” he observed.

“We are introducing a plan to regularise these settlements and are looking to adopt the models in India and Turkey,” he added.