DERA ISMAIL KHAN: The Peshawar High Court’s Dera Ismail Khan Circuit Bench here has held the current deputy commissioner and tehsil municipal officer and their predecessors posted to the district since 2005 over the operation of illegal housing societies and directed the chief secretary to take legal action against them, including registration of criminal cases.

Justice Shakeel Ahmad and Justice Mohammad Faheem Wali also directed the government to crack down on those societies established after the enforcement of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government (Site Development Scheme) Rules, 2005, on Oct 8, 2005.

The bench issued the directives while accepting three ‘public interest’ petitions filed by residents Gulzar Ahmad Khan, Dawar Khan Kundi and Zahid Latif, who pointed out violation of those rules by housing society developers as well as the government functionaries regarding residential and commercial activities in DI Khan.

In a 26-page detailed judgement authored by Justice Faheem Wali, the bench declared that in view of the provisions of the KP Local Government (Site Development Schemes) Rules, 2005, coupled with the report of a committee constituted by the court for examining different aspects of the issue, there was a “flagrant violation of the law on part of officials of the district administration, which not only resulted into loss to the government exchequer but also a non-feasance and failure on their part in the performance of their mandatory official function.”

Asks government to crack down on those projects

It added that all DCs, TMOs, tehsil officers (planning) of DI Khan district and other relevant officials, who had served on their respective posts since the implementation of those rules on Oct 8, 2005, were responsible for the non-registration of housing societies and failure in maintaining the required standards and fulfilling prerequisite of such schemes as required by those rules.

“The matter is referred to the chief secretary, government of KP, to take stern action against all the delinquent officials including registration of criminal cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947,” it declared.

The bench ordered the filing of a follow-up report by the government with the additional registrar of the court on a fortnightly basis.

During the pendency of the petitions, the court had constituted a committee comprising district and sessions judge Abdul Ghafoor Qureshi and senior civil judge (administration) Ishtiaq Ahmad for submitting a report regarding different aspects of the issue.

A report submitted by the committee revealed that the business of unapproved and illegal housing schemes continued to grow in DI Khan district as there were a number of unregistered and unapproved housing societies and the entire district, due to rapid urbanisation, had succumbed to unplanned development and an acute failure of the administration to enforce building bylaws and the Local Government (Site Development Schemes) Rules, 2005.

It added that irregular constructions had popped up all over the district and that there was a growing trend of building residential structures on agricultural lands on the outskirts without obtaining the requisite permissions.

The report also said though the relevant authorities of the district administration had identified illegal housing schemes, they had so far failed to stop their operation as well as devise a policy to stop the people from investing money in their unlawful activities.

The committee had held deputy commissioners, district police officers, assistant commissioners and TMOs responsible for not taking proper action against the owners of illegal housing societies.

Petitioner Gulzar Ahmad Khan hailed the court’s verdict and urged the government to enforce the court’s decision in letter and spirit tothe relief of the people, who were deceived and looted by illegal housing societies in the district.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2022

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