ISLAMABAD, May 13: Bahria Town chief executive officer Ali Riaz Malik will have to appear before the Supreme Court on May 20 to deny or accept the charges of encroaching around 1,416 acres in 2005 owned by the forest department Rawalpindi, causing a loss of billions of rupees to the Punjab government.
At the same time, a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has asked the secretary of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) to clarify the allegations that the authority had forcibly acquired privately-owned land in Rawalpindi in collusion with the revenue officials for the development of the housing authority.
The Supreme Court directed District Coordinator Officer Rawalpindi Rashid Mehmood to point out the names of the officers of the Islamabad administration and the Rangers who had foiled an attempt by the forest department to demarcate the land in June 2011.
On a suo motu, the apex court initiated hearing of an application by Malik Mohammad Shafi, highlighting the destruction of the forest and illegal acquisition of the land by the Bahria Town and the DHA.
The dispute related to the alleged occupation of 684 acres in Rakh Takht Pari and 732.5 acres in Loi Bher forests by the Bahria Town.
Takhat Pari is six kilometres away from the Rawalpindi city near G. T. Road and spreads over 2,210 acres. The land was originally transferred to the forest department on August 4, 1856.
Almost the entire area of Rakh Takht Pari comprises natural shrub forest mainly dominated by Phulai and Sanatha bushes, said a report submitted by the Punjab government to the court.
Even the adjoining areas have wild growth of bushes. Neither Takht Pari forests nor private holdings (mostly shamlat) previously were identified or earmarked.
The newly-appointed DCO, Rashid Mehmood, and Divisional Forest Officer (south) Ijaz Ahmed informed the Supreme Court that at the behest of the Bahria Town, police from the Islamabad and Rangers had thwarted an attempt by the forest department to demarcate the land in the Takht Pari on September 7, 2011, by imposing Section 145 of the PPC, which restricts unlawful assembly. The Bahria Town management also kept hostage the team members of the forest department for a couple of hours.
Additional Advocate General Jawad Hassan, however, told the court that the forest officers, who were also members of the demarcation committee constituted by the commissioner Rawalpindi, had concluded the demarcation by employing GPS technology and the old maps of the Survey of Pakistan.
The Bahria Town management raised constructions on the encroached land by developing roads and residential areas in the Takht Pari area knowing well that the land belonged to the forest department, he added.
The DCO recalled that the Board of Revenue Rawalpindi had already cancelled mutation entries of these lands in favour of the Bahria Town on September 10, 2012.
He informed the court that tehsildar (collector) Noor Zaman, who had led the team to demarcate the forest land, was intercepted by the police and the Rangers. He said the tehsildar knew the identity of the responsible officials of the law enforcing agencies.
The bench directed the DCO to get the names of the officers of the law enforcing agencies from the tehsildar and submit it to the registrar of the apex court.
The registrar will then issue notices to all the officers for appearance before the court on May 20.