KABUL - The Attorney General said Monday that prosecuting those involved in illegal confiscation of public lands is difficult because the country's penal code doesn't directly address the offense.
Afghanistan is still using the penal code of 1974, which only briefly addresses the illegal confiscation of lands and prescribes a light sentence. Article 470 prescribes "a short-term imprisonment no less than three months" for people involved in land-grabbing.
A large number of land-grabbing cases are reported annually, the Attorney General said, adding that 600 cases come only from eight provinces across Afghanistan.
More than four million acres of land across Afghanistan are owned illegally, mostly by top government officials, jihadi leaders and figures in power.
"There was a commission headed by the agriculture minister and appointed by the president to probe illegal land confiscation, but it is not clear what the commission has done so far," said Rahmatullah Nazari, deputy attorney general.
Opposition political parties say the fight against land-grabbing should start from the presidential palace, alluding to potential land offenses by individuals close to the president and his circle, including his vice presidents, who face serious allegations of involvement in land-grabbing.
"If the fight against land-grabbing is not started from the Arg (the presidential palace), people would think the big land-grabbers are destroying the small ones," said Faizullah Zaki, spokesman for the Afghanistan National Front.
Fazlurrahman Oria, spokesman for the National Coalition party, had similar sentiments. "The fight against land-grabbing should be started from the Arg because the land-grabbers are either in the government or supporters of the ruling team."
However, some believe that a lackluster enforcement of the law is also a factor behind the increase in land-grabbing.
"The president and the vice presidents should transparently explain the accusations [of land-grabbing] made against them. They should provide documents to prove whether the accusations are true or not; and if they are true, the laws should be enforced," said Hamidullah Farooqi, spokesman of the Right and Justice Party. (Tolo News)