CPO asked to explain inaction on Bahria’s encroachment

Updated July 15, 2015

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Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan representing the Bahria Town said the dispute had been resolved and it was wrong to suggest encroachment. ─ AFP/File
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan representing the Bahria Town said the dispute had been resolved and it was wrong to suggest encroachment. ─ AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Dismayed at police inertia, the Supreme Court has summoned the city police officer of Rawalpindi to explain the inaction on a complaint made in 2005 about encroachment on Loi Bher forest by the Bahria Town land developer.

The summon went out from a two-member bench of the court headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja on Tuesday, asking the CPO to appear before it on July 23 to tell whether or not an FIR was registered on the complaint of the chief conservator of forests that about 684 acres of forest land had been encroached, and any action followed.

Malik Mohammad Shafi brought the sluggish attitude of the police to the notice of the Supreme Court which had taken suo motu notice on the petition that he moved against the encroachment in 2009. His petition had alleged destruction of the forest and an illegal and forcible acquisition of about 1,416 acres of land by the Bahria Town in Rakh Takht Pari area in collusion with revenue officials.

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan representing the Bahria Town said the dispute had been resolved and it was wrong to suggest encroachment.

But the conservator of the forest, Iftikhar Ahmed Qureshi, and Additional Advocate General Punjab Razzaq A Mirza insisted that the land had been grabbed. Mr Qureshi said his department can produce Google maps of 2003 to prove the charge.

“What to talk of the plight of the common citizens if the State is facing difficulty in the registration of the case by the police,” said Justice Khawaja, noting that 10 years had elapsed when it should have taken 10 minutes to register the case.

Barrister Ahsan, however, insisted that the facts of the case were “entirely different.” He also pointedly recalled an application that Advocate Ali Zafar had moved on behalf of the Bahria Town requesting that Justice Khawaja not hear the matter by withdrawing himself from the bench.

Justice Khawaja responded that he would recuse himself from the bench provided a sound reason was cited.

Barrister Ahsan was asked by the bench to cite the law which empowers the police to refuse the registration of a case where a cognizable offence had been committed.

It also noted that the application by the Bahria Town was being dealt with in another case which has been fixed for hearing. In the circumstances, the application is to be decided by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk.

While dictating the court orders, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja also mentioned the contents of the 2005 letter written by Chief Conservator Raja Khalid Hussain stating that on Oct 11, 2005, functionaries of the Bahria Town started uprooting the forest crop to encroach upon a part of Rokh Lohi Bher forest with excavators and dumpers.

According to the letter, the forest staff reached there and stopped the uprooting. But it was resumed on Oct 24 with the help of a contractor, Habib Rafique and Company. A forest officer and guards got beaten in resisting that.

Two days later, the encroachers brought about 100 armed people who intimidated, attacked and detained a number of forest officers only to set them free at a far-off place.

“It is requested that the SHO Civil Lines police station Rawalpindi may be directed to register an FIR against the offenders for destroying the forest and encroaching on the forest land measuring three kanals besides kidnapping, beating and threatening the forest officers and interfering in their official work,” said the letter.

Published in Dawn ,July 15th, 2015

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