ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its ruling on two cases relating to the encroachment and alleged grabbing of forest land and the illegal transfer of lands to Bahria Town in Rawalpindi.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja reserved the judgments, which will be issued soon.

In the first case, the court took up an appeal of the Anti-Corruption Department Rawalpindi against the Sept 19, 2012, order of the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court that had dismissed its petition against the taking over by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) of investigations into the transfer of 1,400 kanals in Moza Azizal Rawalpindi by fake owners to the Bahria Town in 2009.

On April 16, 2009, Mohammad Sohail Zafar of the Anti-Corruption Department’s circle office filed a complaint against the transfer of 1,400 kanals to the Bahria Town on forged papers. Subsequently, the case was registered with the Anti-Corruption police on Nov 4, 2009, after which an additional director (investigation) recommended criminal action against Patwari Rizwan Iqbal, revenue officers Adnan Kiani, Adnan Bashir, property tycoon Malik Riaz and his son Ali Riaz of Bahria Town.

Cases related to encroachment, alleged occupation of a forest and illegal transfer of land to Bahria Town in Rawalpindi

But the then director general Anti-Corruption Department ordered reinvestigation the final outcome of which saw dropping of the names of both Malik Riaz and Ali Riaz from the case.

This, however, was noticed by the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Consequently, a revised investigation report was submitted to the apex court in October 2011 in which the names of the two influential developers were again included in the case.

But the revised investigation report was held in abeyance through an order issued on the letterhead of the then Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa the same month.

Meanwhile, a letter was written on behalf of the then director general NAB on Nov 21, 2011, to the director general Anti-Corruption Department seeking details of the case. On Nov 24, NAB filed another application with the Anti-Corruption Court for transfer of the case to the bureau.

The Anti-Corruption Department challenged the move in the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court and then in the Supreme Court on which the apex court reserved its ruling.

Meanwhile, the same bench also reserved its judgment on an application by Malik Mohammad Shafi, highlighting the destruction of forest and illegal acquisition of land by Bahria Town and the Defence Housing Authority.

The court reserved its ruling by ignoring the request of Bahria Town’s counsel Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan to adjourn the matter on the grounds that it had already postponed the same many times.

The case related to the alleged occupation of 684 acres in Rakh Takht Pari and 732.5 acres in Loi Bher forests by the Bahria Town.

Takht Pari is located at a distance of six kilometres from the Rawalpindi city near G.T. Road with a total area of 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. Even the adjoining areas have wild growth of bushes. Neither Takht Pari forests nor private holdings (mostly shamlat) previously were identified or earmarked.

On May 13, 2013, the then DCO Rashid Mehmood and Divisional Forest Officer South Ijaz Ahmed informed the Supreme Court that at the behest of Bahria Town the police from the Islamabad as well as Rangers thwarted an attempt by the forest department to demarcate the land in the Takht Pari in Sept 7, 2011, by imposing Section 145, which restricts unlawful assembly. The Bahria Town management also kept hostage a team of the forest department for a couple of hours, the report alleged.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2015

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