SUKKUR: The Sindh High Court, Sukkur bench on Tuesday ordered forest department to retrieve illegally occupied lands in Keti Mumtaz, Keti Kharal, Keti Fareedabad, Keti Jatoi and other areas.

The bench comprising Justice Amjad Ali Sahito and Justice Shamsuddin Abbasi issued the order while hearing the matter concerning illegal occupation of hundreds of acres of forest land in several districts.

The bench came down hard on the Sindh chief secretary and inspector general of police for not appearing in the previous hearings despite getting several notices. It ordered the officials to ensure their attendance on the next hearing, fixed for June 16.

The chief conservator of forests on Tuesday submitted his report regarding the department’s efforts towards retrieving the illegally occupied land in certain areas.

In the last hearing held on May 2, the court had asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to hold an investigation into allotment of forest land since 1985.

NAB prosecutor informed the bench that the bureau had already started its investigation as per the court’s order. Quoting NAB’s findings so far, he stated that 10 patches — nine in Khairpur district and one in Naushahro Feroze district — of forest land in the katcha area were under illegal occupation of some influential political figures.

The bench remarked that political and other influential figures had been occupying forest land without any fear of being held accountable. It ordered initiation of an operation for the retrieval of these lands.

The bench also issued directives to the director general of Sindh Rangers to provide security to the officials and personnel in the process of the retrieval of forest land from illegal occupants.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2020

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