• IHC had ordered survey, demarcation be completed in 60 days
• Committee comprises officials from CDA, ICT admin, defence ministry, Survey of Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: City managers have formed a high-profile committee that has been tasked with demarcating the boundaries of the Margalla Hills National Park area.

Following Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) orders, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) member planning, Naveed Illahi, has notified a five-member committee for carrying out demarcation of the national park.

According to the notification dated March 1, available with Dawn, director environment regional of CDA will be focal person/convener while additional deputy commissioner revenue of ICT, deputy commissioner CDA, representatives of the defence ministry and the Survey of Pakistan will be members.

“In compliance of part-I(viii) of the Honorable Islamabad High Court’s orders dated 11-01-2022, in a writ petition.. titled Prof. Zahid Baig Mirza vs CDA etc, the…committee is hereby notified to carry out demarcation of the subject area,” read the notification.

According to a copy of the IHC’s judgement, the clause (viii) of the orders stated: “The respective Secretaries of the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior and Chairman CDA shall jointly conduct a survey and demarcate the unharmed area of the notified National Park. The survey and demarcation shall be completed within 60 days from the date of this order. They will ensure that no activity or construction is allowed within the notified National Park as mandated under MLR-82, the CDA Ordinance, 1960 and regulations made thereunder, the Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Ordinance 1979, and the Islamabad Preservation of Landscape Ordinance 1966.”

Earlier, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah on January 11 this year had directed civic agencies to seal the sprawling naval golf course located in the Margalla Hills National Park area, and unless an environmentally-friendly use can be found for it, ordered its demolition within four weeks. Whereas, the IHC also rejected the military’s claim on over 8,000 acres of national park land and ordered the CDA to seal Monal Restaurant set up in national park area. It also asked the defence ministry to ensure that the amount received as rent was deposited in the exchequer.

The court directed the defence secretary to ascertain which officials were responsible for the construction of the golf course while the CDA chairman was ordered to probe the construction of Monal and other restaurants located on national park land.

Chief Justice Minallah rejected military’s ownership claim and ordered recovery of all rent paid by Monal Restaurant.

After building Monal Restaurant, the CDA had leased it out for 15 years which expired last year. However, a few years before the expiry of the lease, the lessee started paying rent to the military, which stated that the land where Monal was constructed belonged to them.

The dispute between the CDA and the restaurant emerged after the latter started paying rent to the General Headquarters (GHQ) instead of the civic agency as the directorate claimed that the land where CDA had built Monal, on the basis of a notification from the year 1912, belonged to them.

“The claim of Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate of Pakistan Army, regarding 8,068 acres of land in the notified national park area is in violation of the Ordinance of 1979, read with the Ordinance of 1960, and the [Islamabad] Master Plan,” the court declared.

The CDA’s Zone III comprises over 50,000 acres and out of it, around 30,000 was part of the national park. The remaining around 20,000 acre of private land, which is outside the park, belonged to the local people.

The CDA officials said the high court had directed proper demarcation of boundaries of the national park and the committee would complete its task in light of the court order within the given time.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2022

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