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Last chance to save Lahore

Encroaching of land has not only caused a loss of beauty of every city but leading to untoward incidents of terrorism, accidents and jamming roads. Encroachment which is also an illegal activity has been a major reason behind accidents and encroachers should be held accountable in this regard. For example, if we take Lahore city, it will be shocking and surprising to many that mafia has encroached 27,877 kanals land. Out of total, 5036 kanals land of provincial government has been encroached, 18773 kanals land of federal government, 735 kanals of Auqaf department, 3105 kanals land of other departments.

In Lahore district, encroachers have encroached total land of 42858 kanals and out of which 8944 kanals land is property of by provincial government, 28765 kanals land federal government, 1592 kanals land Auqaf department and 3297 kanals land of other public sector departments. If we look at Tehsil level, mafia has encroached total land of 14311 kanals and out of it, provincial government owns 3721 kanals land, federal government 677 kanals, Auqaf department 705 kanals and 1915 kanals land is ownership of different departments. According to a survey, out of total 381,912 kanals land, 9 percent (42858 kanals) has been grabbed by encroachers.

The question arises who will stop mafia from encroaching government land and why lives of innocent people were at mercy of encroachers. According to latest survey, there are 445 encroachments in areas under the LDA control. Some 185 of these encroachments exist along the main boulevards and roads, five on secondary roads and 255 around various posh markets. The main boulevard Gulberg Market tops the list with 106 illegal possessions of state lands, while Barkat Market Garden Town occupies the second position with 61 encroachments. The details of land encroachments around other market places are Firdous Market Gulberg 21, Ghalib Market Gulberg 31 and Liberty Market 36. The encroachments along roads under the LDA control include Gurumangat Road 33, MM Alam Road Gulberg 35, Noor Jehan Road Gulberg 23, Main Boulevard Gulberg 9, Mini Market Gulberg 16, Johar Town 8, Model Town Link Road 39, Barkat Market Garden Town 14 and Gujarpura 8.

These deplorable evidences show that encroachers will destroy the whole city of Lahore in the long run and encroachment could take other cities in grip if action is not taken against them. Land encroachers are occupying government land in every city. Look at Karachi city which is believed to be hub of economic activities, is also under constant threat of land mafia that is reportedly involved in terrorist activities and target killing. But Sindh government seems even helpless before this land mafia. And, land encroachers are also active in Haiderabad, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi an Islamabad cities. But this powerful mafia is supposed to be above law and even they do not care of courts.

Encroachments not only mar urban landscape, these also cause severe constraints for commuters and pedestrians, especially women, in market places. Furthermore, encroachments hinder rescue and fire-fighting operations during emergencies, making it difficult for ambulances and fire brigades to reach the affected areas and places on time. Sometimes, these delays prove very fatal and cause tremendous losses, both in men and material. The recent fire in Shah Alam Market Lahore is a case in point.

However, it appears that the state functionaries at the local level follow some unwritten law according to which they have to look the other way if the violation and encroachment happens to be by a VIP; however, if the encroacher/violator happens to be an ordinary citizen, he/she should not to be spared at any cost. This situation becomes very alarming due to poor governance. However, good news is that district government Lahore is going to launch an anti drive against encroachers. According to strategy, at preliminary stage, encroachers would be warned to remove encroachment voluntarily. And, a grant anti encroachment drive will be launched in the end if encroachers resist. All government machinery will be utilized to this effect putting aside all political and other pressure if any. All elements involved in encroachment will be held accountable without any discrimination. Now the hope is there that Lahore city will become encroachment free if operation is completed without any pressure.

We can also hope that no encroachment will create hurdles for Fire brigade and rescue operations in case of any untoward happenings. Removal of encroachment is need of hour and no doubt, comprehensive policy has been announced in this regard. The anti encroachment campaign may turn into a failed attempt if any political or other pressure is acknowledged. I hope that Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif will go ahead with determination till removal of encroachment to restore the beauty of Lahore city in national interest and provide relief to the people on other side.

People hope that district government will not care of any political pressure during operation against encroachers. I also request Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to go ahead if he dreams of turning Lahore city into Paris. Lahore should be made free of encroachment first and administration should be given free hand to deal handedly with encroachers. This is the best opportunity to take action against encroachers and whole Lahore city will be under grip of encroachment if Chief Minister missed this opportunity.

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