ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has summoned incumbent Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to explain before the court on Tuesday (today) how as then chief minister and under which authority he had ordered demarcation of forest land in the Takht Pari area of Rawalpindi that eventually benefited his family.
“As a result of the demarcation, some government land went to Messrs Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd and then eventually came back to the family of the former chief minister,” observed Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar heading a five-judge bench.
The notice was issued to the former chief minister during the hearing of a review petition of the real estate tycoon against the May 4 verdict in which the apex court had held that the area of Takht Pari, located six kilometres from the Rawalpindi city near G.T. Road, comprised 2,210 acres and not 1,741 acres as claimed by Bahria Town.
The SC order mentioned that senior counsel for Bahria Town Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan during the course of hearing conceded that the then chief minister had no authority or official role in demarcation of the forest land.
Entire nomenclature of land was changed only to grab it, observes chief justice
At a previous hearing, the court had noted that by ordering fresh demarcation of the forest land, 270-kanal land went to Chaudhry Salik Illahi, Chaudhry Munir and Aaliya Shujaat, the family members of the former chief minister. The apex court had wondered what business the chief minister had to approve fresh demarcation of the forest land while he had no role in the entire revenue department hierarchy.
The bench ordered the Punjab revenue department to provide record regarding the actual area and demarcation of certain lands with a caution that the evidence should not be tampered with.
The Supreme Court in its May 4 judgement had held that the exchange of land purportedly encroached upon by Messrs Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd and the Punjab forest department as well as the attestation of mutations were based on erroneous assumption about the area.
The chief justice regretted that the entire nomenclature of the land was changed only to grab it.
While pointing towards the counsel for Bahria Town, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa asked who were the real culprits behind the land demarcation — either Bahria Town or the provincial government authorities. He said the court expected that the counsel would defend the chopping of trees from the forest lands, which was the real issue in the case.
The chief justice observed that the court might consider initiating criminal cases against those responsible for tree cutting.
Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan recalled the SC judgement had categorically stated that the approval for the demarcation of the land was taken from the chief minister when the latter had no authority for this.
The counsel, however, argued that the demarcation exercise was done in accordance with the West Pakistan Land Revenue Act of 1956. He added that measurement of the River Korang was also being done by the authorities under the same law.
Authored by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, the May 4 judgement had ordered the forest department, revenue department and the Survey of Pakistan to conduct a fresh demarcation after giving notices to the forest department and Bahria Town.
The judgement had held that the Punjab District Gazetteer Volume XXVIII, published in 1907, working plan of scrub forest of Rawalpindi West Forest Division for the period 1933-34 to 1952-53, revised working plan of 1959-60 to 1963-64, 1966-67 to 1975-76 and working plan of 1988-89 to 2019-2020 amply and overwhelmingly proved that the total area of Takht Pari forest was 2,210 acres.
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2018