ISLAMABAD, Aug 28: The Punjab Government wants back the 1,500 acres of land on the Margalla Hills reserved for forests that it had leased out to the Capital Development Authority in 1960s.

The 15-km-long stretch of forest land is currently held by influential people and political personalities.

In addition to residential units and farmhouses, unknown people have raised modern huts there.

A federal government official confirmed to Dawn that Punjab government was in negotiations with the CDA to reclaim the land.

“We have been asked by the government to attend a meeting to be held at the civic authority’s headquarters on Thursday which will be attended by chief forest officer Punjab, the CDA chairman, Nadeem Hasan Asif, member estate and officials of the ICT administration,” maintained the source.

The official insisted that federal government had desired to resolve the matter and “wanted the land on the Margallah Hills and its surroundings clearly demarcated.”

In a recent interaction with Dawn Dr Mohammad Rafique, the chief conservator Punjab, said the forest land of the province had been encroached by land grabbers and the matter needed to be addressed.

He insisted in his statement: “We have all the record about the territorial jurisdiction and the reserve forest land with our revenue department.”

Dr Rafique pointed out that the Capital Development Authority and the Punjab government had held two meetings on the issue.

“The Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah had also taken up the matter with the federal government but it is yet to be resolved,” he said.

The chief conservator maintained that all the reserve forest land belonged to Punjab and “our department has again taken up the matter with the federal government and hopefully we will be able to get the land back from Islamabad.”

In November 2012, the Punjab government, in a letter to the Cabinet Division, had stated: “The Punjab government had leased Margalla forest land measuring 11,870 acres to the CDA under an agreement.

“The lease agreement was signed between the then secretary agriculture West Pakistan and the horticulture directorate of the CDA in 1960s, and the lease expired in 1991.”

However, when approached, the chief commissioner ICT Jawad Paul maintained: “The Punjab government wanted their land to be demarcated to save it from encroachers.”

During his brief interaction he maintained: “Once the land is demarcated the encroachments will be identified and legal action will be taken as per the law.”

He informed Dawn that a committee had been established by the Cabinet Division last year which is working to resolve the matter.

Despite repeated attempts, the spokesman for the Capital Development Authority Dr Naeem Rauf was not available to comment on the matter.

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