Punjab yet to provide record of land transferred to Islamabad

Published November 24, 2020
The Punjab government is yet to provide records of 231,826 acres purportedly transferred to the capital territory of Islamabad from Rawalpindi in 1980. — Reuters/file
The Punjab government is yet to provide records of 231,826 acres purportedly transferred to the capital territory of Islamabad from Rawalpindi in 1980. — Reuters/file

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government is yet to provide records of 231,826 acres purportedly transferred to the capital territory of Islamabad from Rawalpindi in 1980.

A source told Dawn that a letter was dispatched from the office of the additional advocate general (AAG) Punjab to the Senior Member Board of Revenue (SMBR) Punjab, chief settlement commissioner Board of Revenue Punjab, secretary Forest Department Lahore and the commissioner Rawalpindi Division with a request to verify whether 231,826 acres, including forest land, had been transferred from Rawalpindi to Islamabad.

The letter was written in response to a suo motu taken by the Supreme Court in April 2018 regarding illegal construction in Banigala. The suo motu was taken on a letter written by then PTI chief and now Prime Minister Imran Khan, inviting court’s attention towards the large-scale encroachment on the botanical garden, uncheck and unplanned construction and pollution of Rawal Lake.

The letter asked the authorities of the provincial government to furnish the complete revenue record, corollary documentation and other necessary papers since a report has to be furnished before the apex court.

Report to be filed in SC in connection with a suo motu taken on illegal construction in Banigala

The letter also sought information regarding terms and conditions on which the land was transferred to Islamabad as well as any information about the evacuee land which may have been given to the capital city.

The issue concerning the land transfer cropped up during the apex court hearing on Oct 2 when the court was told that so far the record regarding the transfer of land was not available.

It was stated that in 1966 the then governor Punjab as well as the then Agriculture Department had leased out 1,362 acres to the CDA that now consist of the areas around Banigala. The lands were leased out at a nominal price of Rs1 per acre.

Out of 1,362 acres, 721 acres comprised the reserved forest land or the botanical garden and 641 acres Rakh Banigala. These areas span over Phul Garan, Moza Utal, Mohra Noor and Banigala.

The lease was granted by the Punjab government with an understanding that the forest area will remain untouched, maintained and will never be sublet to any other department or agency.

The lease period has already expired in 1991 but the CDA has not paid a single penny to the Punjab government during the entire period. On the other hand, wide-scale construction could be seen in the entire area.

The letter issued by AAG Punjab also contains a notification. The notification of June 25, 1980, stated that “The governor of the Punjab is pleased to order that the area measuring 231,826 acres comprising 169 complete and 45 partial revenue estates of the Rawalpindi tehsil and six complete and seven partial revenue estates of the Murree tehsil along with 68 forest Rukhs of Rawalpindi tehsil will deem to have been transferred from Rawalpindi District to the Islamabad District with effect from July 1980.”

The document also showed another letter of Dec 30, 1980, from the deputy commissioner Islamabad to the then commissioner Rawalpindi about the constitution of the boundary of Islamabad district.

Consequently, a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial had ordered the office of the SMBR Punjab on Nov 9 to furnish a comprehensive report.

A senior counsel on condition of anonymity said the needed information had still not been provided, adding the issue attained significance in view of the latest report which CDA furnished before the apex court on Nov 23 which stated that the authority had received four bids from the international and national consortiums to review the master plan of the federal capital.

These bids, according to the report, were being evaluated by an evaluation committee after which the successful bidder would be awarded the work to review the master plan.

The master plan of Islamabad was prepared and approved in 1960. On Dec 28, 2018, the federal cabinet constituted a commission to review the master plan which decided to hire the services of the international consultants.

When complete record of the land transferred to the federal capital is neither available with the Rawalpindi Division nor the CDA, how the master plan of Islamabad could be revised, asked the senior counsel.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the CDA to ensure transparency while regularising unchecked and unplanned construction in the Banigala.

The court also asked the CDA to furnish a report about alleged reports that Korang River was being polluted from waste released by nearby housing societies.

The court said no-objection certificates (NOC) issued to the private housing societies should contain the condition of developing sewage treatment plants.

In April 2018, the CDA had told the apex court that it had launched an amnesty scheme to regularise unchecked and unplanned construction in the Banigala area which were built until March 30, 2018, adding any construction after the deadline would be demolished.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2020

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