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SAHIWAL, May 30: The district education department has identified 73 schools of diverse grades whose land is illegally occupied by influential people.

It is learnt that the district government is devising a strategy for getting the land of these schools vacated from illegal occupants.

The local education department has collected details of existing infrastructure of 1,306 schools in the district broadly falls in three categories -- primary, elementary and higher secondary.

The kind of details gathered include information regarding the status of schools in terms of the building structure, trees, electricity, boundary wall, drinking water facilities, telephones, staff shortage, toilets and furniture.

EDO (Education) Mrs Naheed Wasif said it was during this exercise that the department learnt that the land of 73 schools had been in illegal possession for several years.

She said only the open areas of these schools were occupied which were being used for varied purposes.

In village schools, the landlords, whose lands were adjacent to the boundary walls of these schools, were using the occupied land for agriculture purpose and as cattle pens, she said.

While the land of schools located in cities and towns had been occupied for residential and business purposes, the EDO said.

She said one such example was the Government High School, Sahiwal, whose 50 kanals of land had been in possession of the Janzbaz Infantry Force for the last 20 years.

"Offices of the Janbaz Infantry Forces are presently located in the old hostel building of the school".

This correspondence visited the area and found residences of Janbaz Force personnel in the building of old school hostel constructed in 1936. Janbaz Force in charge Maj Riaz said that the force was administratively under the DCO and people were trained for the civil defence purpose.

He said: “I have trained five companies having 600 men each. Former DCOs had given this land to the force some 25 years back. I will vacate the place if alternative arrangements are made for my people".

A schoolteacher, requesting anonymity, claimed that former employee of municipal committee Faiz Butt had raised his house on four-kanal land of the MC Primary School A Branch, Gole Chaker.

Similarly, he said, Muhammad Isa had taken an illegal possession of one kanal land of Girls Middle School at Chak 82/5-L.

DCO Muhammad Khichi said that officials of the education department had been assigned the task to get the land of 26 primary schools vacated from the illegal occupiers.

As for the remaining 47 schools, the DCO said that a committee, comprising EDO (education), EDO (revenue) and police officials, had been formed to lay hand on the big fish.