PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Wednesday stopped the Nowshera district government from proceeding further on an order through which the lease of a vast piece of land of the botanical garden of the University of Peshawar in Azakhel area was cancelled and the university administration was directed to hand it over to the government.

Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Irshad Qaisar directed the Nowshera district nazim and deputy commissioner to maintain status quo on the issue.

They also directed them to file comments within a fortnight on a petition filed by the UoP’s syndicate through its registrar and the university’s vice chancellor challenging the order of the district nazim issued on Feb 3, 2016, to cancel the lease of the land measuring 567 kanals.

Asks Nowshera nazim, DC to explain position in case

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had on Feb 24, 2014, ordered to hand over around 500 kanals of the said land of botanical garden for setting up two other universities, Air University and Technical University. However, the high court had on Jun 9, 2014, declared the said order of chief minister as illegal.

Now the Nowshera district nazim, Liaqat Khattak, who is brother of Pervez Khattak, has ordered cancellation of lease of land measuring 567 kanals.

Advocate Waseemuddin Khattak appeared for the petitioner and contended that the syndicate of UoP had in Dec 2003 approved the establishment of Centre of Plant Biodiversity, which included setting up of a Botanical Garden in Azakhel, Nowshera.

He said the Higher Education Commission in order to support the university in its efforts to establish the centre sanctioned a grant of Rs.37.861 million.

The lawyer said the Nowshera District Government had leased out land measuring 689 kanals to the university, for the establishment of the centre through a lease deed on Dec 16, 2005 for a period of 99 years.

He said the chief minister had also tried in 2014 to take back vast portion of the land from the university and to transfer it to Technical University and Air University.

Mr. Waseemuddin contended that the high court had declared the said decision of the chief minister as illegal and also issued certain guidelines.

He added that the court had directed that the UoP’s syndicate should deliberate upon the stance taken by the chief minister.

The lawyer said the syndicate had turned down subsequently turned down the demand of the provincial government. He added that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had also upheld the high court’s judgment.

The lawyer pointed out that the Nowshera district government had issued a notice to the university in Dec 2015 showing its intention to cancel the said lease.

He added that after the university submitted a reply to the said notice the district government issued the impugned order on Feb 3 and ordered cancellation of lease of 567 of the total 689 kanals of land.

The lawyer said the order in question was illegal as there was no clause in the lease deed wherein it was mentioned that the lease could be cancelled.

He said hundreds of scholars of MPhil and PhD had been conducting research at the said botanical gardens.

Additional advocate general Mian Arshad Jan argued that the land was leased out to the UoP but so far it had utilised only 77 kanals of land, whereas the rest was useless.

He claimed that after cancellation of the lease the government had taken possession of the said land.

However, Mr. Waseemuddin disputed his claim and said until now, the land in question was still in possession of the university.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2016