ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah reprimanded the capital administration on Thursday for turning the capital into “lawless” territory and enabling influential people to take over private and state land.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has rightly said mafias have controlled the departments,” Justice Minallah said, adding Islamabad was an example of this. He made the remarks while hearing a case related to illegal housing societies, including one owned by PTI’s Aleem Khan, a Punjab senior minister.

Citing a report from the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat told the IHC that the housing societies of the Senate, National Assembly, Ministry of Interior, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) are all illegal.

Justice Minallah remarked that the capital’s 1,400 square miles were a lawless territory, and asked Mr Shafqaat whether it was possible to grab land without the involvement of the revenue department, CDA and police.

He added that overseas Pakistans were the most vulnerable with scores of complaints from them about their land being grabbed. He said helpless landowners had been forced to hand over their properties to powerful individuals.

Islamabad authorities reprimanded for enabling influential people to take over private, state land

The CDA has allowed private developers to utilise state land and they are cutting trees and causing environmental degradation but still expect that their illegal deeds will be regularised, Justice Minallah remarked.

He warned that Mr Shafqaat, the tehsildar and the concerned station house officer would face action in the event of a complaint of land being grabbed by powerful people.

Mr Shafqaat told the court that the capital administration would take measures to end the practice of land grabbing.

In the case of Aleem Khan’s housing society Park View City, the court halted construction activities in the society and directed the deputy commissioner to visit the site and make sure the court order is being implemented.

“This court has been inundated with complaints received from ordinary citizens complaining against the alleged illegalities committed by the private respondent i.e. M/s Park View City (Pvt) Ltd or its agents,” the court said.

The CDA was also given an opportunity to satisfy the court regarding the legality of the no-objection certificate (NOC) it granted to a privately owned profit making entity, but failed to do so.

Justice Minallah directed Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam and the director general Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) to conduct an environmental impact assessment of the housing society since it is located in Zone IV, which is part of Islamabad’s national park area.

He sought an explanation from the CDA for the issuance of an NOC to the society even though it is situated in the national park.

Justice Minallah asked the CDA who had prepared the summary, to which CDA Director Regional Planning Arshad Chohan said he was the author of the summary.

In the course of arguments, Mr Chohan admitted that the capital’s master plan does not allow for housing societies to be established in Zone IV.

Justice Minallah said it appeared that the CDA had misrepresented a Supreme Court judgement to issue the society the NOC.

The court added that it was alarming to note that Pak-EPA did not appear to take any action and nor was its approval sought under the Pakistan Environment Protection Act 1997 by the CDA before the issuance of the NOC, and that too for a housing society in an environmentally sensitive area.

Justice Minallah issued a notice to the attorney general and sought his assistance on the development of a housing society in Zone IV and adjourned hearing until Sept 2.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2020