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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 06:09 GMT 07:09 UK
Powerful 'grab Afghanistan land'
By Stephanie Irvine
BBC News Eurasia editor

Urban Development Minister Mohammad Yousaf Pashthun
Mr Pashthun says little is being done about land grab
The Afghan urban development minister says land is being appropriated illegally by powerful individuals at a rate of two sq km (0.8 sq miles) a day.

Former military commanders, members of parliament and senior officials are seizing land and then selling it on illegally, says Yousaf Pashthun.

There is a "land mafia" which has stolen 5,000 sq km of land this year.

It is another indication of the extent of corruption and the absence of the rule of law in Afghanistan.

One man, who lives in the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif, told the BBC how an estate that had been in his family for 80 years was taken over by local strongmen.

They drew up false papers, divided the land up into plots and sold it off for private housing, he says.

Although the original owner has taken the case to court, he is not optimistic since the people who stole his land are wealthy and powerful.

The illegal seizure of government-owned land is also making it difficult for the authorities to carry out development schemes and building projects.

Mr Pashthun says one of the reasons very little is being done about the problem is that many people in positions of power, including the government, are involved in the land mafia.

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