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LAHORE: In a major operation carried out in the wee hours of Tuesday, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) retrieved possession of its 10 petrol pump sites situated in prime locations of the city.

The LDA launched the operation after a consensus that the committee constituted to hear it as well as the lessees in the light of the court’s direction failed to hold even a single meeting to solve the issue. Similarly, the authority said the word ‘harassment’ as mentioned in the stay order only stops it from harassing the petitioners and not from taking a legal action in the form of retrieving possession of its own property.

The petrol pump sites, which were retrieved by four LDA teams in collaboration with police, included five in Allama Iqbal Town (Kashmir, Rachna, Khyber blocks and Civic Centre), one each in Johar and Faisal towns, one in Gulshan-i-Ravi, three in Sabzazar scheme and one near Liberty (Gulberg).

A couple of days before, the teams had retrieved three similar sites situated at prime locations of the city, according to official sources.

There are 30 operational pump sites in the control area of the LDA. Besides these, two sites situated in Jubilee Town and LDA Avenue-1 are yet to be made functional. The 30 sites were made operational many years ago after they were given to influential people, including some companies, without any auction -- some of these were even given on lease on nominal charges without auction to those who succeeded in getting the lucrative sites through summaries initiated by the top authorities in the past.

“The LDA kept receiving the nominal rent from the lessees in some cases till December 2006. However, after the amendment carried out in 2007 in Section-4 of the Disposal of Land by Development Authorities (Regulations) Act 1998, the LDA did not receive any further rent from the lessees. As the lease agreement was never further renewed, and LDA had been receiving the rent on annual basis, the lease was deemed to have automatically been terminated, and a notice for handing over of vacant possession of petrol pump sites to LDA was accordingly issued by the orders of the Director General on July 15, 2008,” reads an internal report. “Similar orders were passed in the cases of other sites.”

It quotes the court orders deciding finally 27 writ petitions of different dealers and companies on the subject matter involving the same questions of law and facts vide order dated March 14, 2018. “The operative part of the order states that ‘In view of the above, while allowing the petitioners request, I am inclined to transmit copy of these petitions along with its annexures to aforesaid fresh committee through its Chairman who will ensure to hold the meeting of the said committee on regular basis and conclude the matter expeditiously preferably within a period of two months from the receipt of certified copy of this order. “However, till the matter is decided by the said committee, the respondents shall not harass the petitioners and shall also proceed in the matter qua petitioners strictly in accordance with law.”

The committee headed by Mr Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman comprised Sheikh Allauddin, Khwaja Ahmad Hassaan, Lord Mayor of Lahore, Member (Colonies) Board of Revenue, provincial secretaries of Finance, Law and Implementation & Coordination, commissioner, Punjab Privatization Board Chairman, deputy commissioner, LDA DG and representatives of companies and other stakeholders. It could not do anything within the time limit fixed by the court.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2018