ISLAMABAD: Private housing society Bahria Town has offered Rs9 billion in order to get rid of a reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against encroachment on 6,000-kanal forest land in the Rakh Takht Pari area of Rawalpindi district.
The Bahria Town submitted the proposal to the Supreme Court in response to an order issued by a bench constituted to implement the judgement passed in May last year.
The Supreme Court had on May 4, 2018 held that the area of Rakh Takht Pari forest — located six kilometres from Rawalpindi city near GT Road — was illegally given to the housing scheme by the Punjab government and directed NAB to fix responsibility and file references against the accused.
The apex court has also dismissed the review petition and a bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, was constituted for the implementation of its verdict.
The residents filed a petition to protect the right of the third party in the implementation bench. The Bahria Town, in response to the court’s directive, initially submitted a proposal of Rs13bn for the regularisation of encroachments. However, when the implementation bench directed the housing society to suggest a ‘way forward’, the latter submitted another proposal offering Rs1.5m per kanal for regularisation of the forest land.
The Supreme Court had in its May 4 judgement held that the exchange of the land purportedly encroached upon by the Bahria Town Ltd and the Punjab forest department as well as the attestation of mutations were based on erroneous assumption about the area.
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 issuing 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 2019-20 amply and overwhelmingly proved that the total area of Takht Pari forest was 2,210 acres.
The apex court order said: “NAB is directed to investigate the case and file references against all those who are found responsible for committing, aiding and abetting the crime at any level or in any form.”
During the hearing of the review petition in December last year, the Supreme Court had also issued a notice to Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Illahi as it noted that by ordering 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.
It may be mentioned that in response to the apex court’s directive, NAB has prepared a reference against the Bahria Town, former Punjab chief minister Pervaiz Illahi and others.
Sources in NAB told Dawn that investigation into the reference had been completed in March and the regional board meeting, after approving the filing of the reference against Pervaiz Ilahi, Malik Riaz and others, had forwarded it to the NAB headquarters where it was pending.
During last month’s hearing, the NAB prosecution informed the court that the bureau was awaiting the directive of the implementation bench to proceed further with this matter.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2019