The only prerequisite | Farrukh Saleem


Capital suggestion

The Land Revenue Act is 50 years old. The Registration Act is more than a 100 years old. And there are 1.3 million cases pending with Punjab’s district judiciary (a very large number pertains to land disputes). The backlog at the Supreme Court stands at 30,970 cases.

Leaders must be judged on three counts: intention, capacity and delivery. Punjab has a population of 101 million spread over 205,344 square kilometres. Punjab has had a manual, paper-based land records system whereby land rights have long been insecure, resulting in a large number of land disputes and an unhealthy investment climate.

Shahbaz Sharif’s answer to insecure land rights, a high number of land disputes and an unhealthy investment climate is the Punjab government’s Land Revenue Management and Information System (LRMIS). Under the LRMIS, the manual, paper-based land record system is being “transformed into a computerised database”.

The LRMIS is being financed by the World Bank and land record service centres have already become operational in more than 140 tehsils and sub-tehsils. Land records have already been computerised in more than 30 districts and close to 100 service centres have been linked online.

The LRMIS maintains a Register of Haqdaran-e-Zameen and every right-holder can, after paying a fee of a few hundred rupees, obtain a Fard-e-Malkiat in less than an hour. Naqsha-Araazi (Google mapping) of Lahore, Lodhran and Hafizabad has already been completed. Arazi Record Centers are open from 8am to 8pm and, on average, are issuing 150,000 fards a month.

Punjab’s land culture has long been about the patwar culture. No more. Punjab’s revenue department has long been a symbol of rampant corruption. No more. The LRMIS is on its way to end Punjab’s patwar culture. The LRMIS is on its way to eradicate corruption from the revenue department. This is the use of technology to improve service delivery. This is the use of technology to improve governance.

Next is the Citizen Feedback Monitoring Program (CFMP). Once again, the initiative involves the use of technology by the government of Punjab to improve service delivery and curb corruption. Government services which have been covered so far include dialysis and emergency cases from the health department, domicile from the revenue department, character certificates and driving licences from the police department and property registration from the LRMIS.

This is how the CFMP works: A citizen visits any of the services covered. The citizen receives a recorded call in the voice of the chief minister. The recorded call is then followed by an SMS that seeks feedback from the citizen. A typical SMS states: “Dear citizen, did you experience any corruption when obtaining your driving licence yesterday in Lahore?”

In addition, monthly reports are generated and sent to the DCOs of all 36 districts. All the negative feedback is then used by CM Shahbaz Sharif and his team to achieve two things: improve service delivery and curb corruption.

According to the Sussex Centre for the Study of Corruption at the University of Sussex, “to fight corruption, Beijing should look to Pakistan…and that the citizens should be empowered so that they could report bribery”.

If and when governments are willing to improve service delivery and curb petty corruption, technology already exists – technology that can help and technology that can assist. A willing government is the only prerequisite.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: Twitter: @saleemfarrukh