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LAHORE: Security officials belonging to a housing society allegedly tried to block the way of a 30-strong government team that arrived to demolish a wall near Mohlanwal to clear way for the construction of the Southern Loop-III (Section-3) of the Lahore Ring Road project. The standoff ended only after the police intervened, Dawn learnt on Friday.

Official sources say the operation was launched on August 3 at about 7pm from Raiwind Road after the Lahore High Court, according to them, explained and termed the order it issued earlier as ‘not a stay order’ in favour of the group (Bahria Town).

The Bahria Town’s Lahore administrator Brig (retired) Khalil didn’t respond to repeated calls and text messages made by this reporter. One of the town administration’s senior officials declined to comment. “This is not about my portfolio ,” he said before hanging up.

The operation was started from the Pakistan Medical Housing Society where the team demolished a boundary wall and some infrastructure developed /situated on the alignment of the southern loop-III.

Later, the team comprising officials of the Lahore Ring Road Authority, Allama Iqbal and Nishtar town municipal administrations and headed by the LRRA’s director (Estate Management & Land Acquisition) Mr Sohail Khawaja arrived at a spot off Bahria Town. They were stopped from proceeding with demolishing a boundary wall by the security guards.

“They surrounded us for about an hour and retreated after the police stepped forward to help the team in the performance of the official work,” an official told Dawn on Friday.

He said the team razed the boundary wall and allowed the society ‘some time’ to make its decision about some 71 houses, three constructed and four under-construction plazas which fell in the path of the southern loop. The decision to delay action on these constructions was taken in the wake of the pleas by a group of Bahria residents and some society officials gathered there during the operation on the night of Aug 3, a source said.

The team later reached the NFC housing scheme (phase-2) near Maraka. This scheme’s boundary wall and other infrastructure built on the ring road route were also dismantled.

A source said Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has since been approached to resolve the issue. “The CM didn’t agree to a suggested change in the ring road alignment. However, he advised the ring road authority to try and solve the issue through talks,” another official told Dawn.

The official said that in 2008, the government under section 4 for the Land Acquisition Act had announced to acquire some 656-kanals (agriculture land) for the southern loop’s section 3. But the housing society purchased the same land despite knowing about its proposed acquisition for the ring road.

Later the group developed its sectors and blocks there, allowing construction of several houses measuring 10 and five marlas. “Since acquisition of the land under sections 17 (4) and 6 had been notified through a gazette notification, status of the land kept changing in violation of the law.”

When contacted, LRRA Chairperson and Lahore Commissioner Abdullah Sumbal confirmed the operation and said the authority would ensure clearance of the area for the southern loop by all means. “No one is above the law. We will ensure clearance of the area for the ring road in the public interest,” Mr Sumbal said.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2016