LAHORE: The government has decided to relaunch the operation against the land grabbers, unlawful occupants of residential, commercial and industrial state land, besides those involved in encroachment.

In this connection, directions have been recently given to the relevant departments, including the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation and Lahore Development Authority, to plan and launch well-coordinated operations, according to official sources.

“You are required to immediately launch massive crackdown on land grabbers, encroachments, illegal constructions, unlawful commercial activities, as well as unapproved housing schemes in the city,” LDA Director General Usman Moazzam told the heads of the authority’s directorates concerned on Tuesday.

“Those involved in such practices must vacate the state land, ending illegal occupation and winding up unlawful commercial activities within next 15 days, failing which they will have to face stern legal action,” he warned.

The PTI-led Punjab government had earlier launched an operation against encroachments, land grabbers etc in October, last year in Lahore, in particular and other districts in general, retrieving state land worth billions. In Lahore division alone, approximately 4,000 kanals worth billions were retrieved.

However, the government, later either stopped the operation or slowed it down after people in various parts of the city, including Harbanspura, Bahawalpur Road (near Miani Sahib), Tajpura and Shahalam Market offered strong resistance to the official teams carrying it out.

“In some cases — such as in Shahalam and on Bahawalpur Road (Bagh Gul Begum), the government officers exercised their authority unjustifiably despite knowing about the legal status and title of the property in favour of the owners (registry, mutation etc),” an official source told Dawn.

He advised the government to launch forceful operations against the land grabbers still occupying precious state land worth billions. “For this, the officers would have to ignore any sort of pressure from anyone (top government officials, politicians etc) while launching such operations,” he added.

According to the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation, a zero-tolerance policy regarding encroachment is being adopted. “We have already started the operation. And some days ago, we retrieved precious state land in Mauza Khurdpur, Multan Road,” MCL’s Chief Officer Mr Masood Tamanah told this reporter.

On the other hand, the LDA has also sought a massive operation against illegal structures, including ramps, steel fences, gates, illegal extensions of buildings and other encroachments causing hurdles in smooth flow of traffic and pedestrians in its controlled area, including private housing schemes. “The operation will continue till the clearance of the way and restoration of original width of roads,” said a spokesman.

He warned that people should demolish all permanent or temporary illegal constructions on their own, otherwise demolition expenditure would also be charged from them.

Meanwhile, the LDA teams carried out an operation against six illegal housing schemes in Ferozepur Road area. The team staff demolished under-construction roads, sewerage, boundary walls, site offices and other infrastructure of Al-Bashir Homes, Alfajar Town, illegal extension of Engineer’s Town, Attiya Homes, Paradise Homes and Canal View Farms, the spokesman said.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2019