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Reclaiming land: The unyielding encroachers

ISLAMABAD: The twin cities’ administrations have failed to establish a mechanism to reclaim state-owned land from influential land encroachers despite repeated demands from the Supreme Court (SC), The Express Tribune has learnt.

The SC recently directed the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to reclaim around 20,000 acres of government land worth billions of rupees from illegal possession. But the required mechanisms have not been established and the civic authorities have dropped the anti-encroachment campaign against influential owners of illegally-constructed plazas and fuel pumps in the twin cities.

Officials of CDA said that that the authority is facing difficulties in launching operation against the encroachers due to their influence and also due to lack of required manpower and equipment. A senior official of CDA said that a special committee of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was asked to provide the required equipment and manpower to deal with the issue, however, no help has been extended by PAC or the government.

“Given the conditions, taking action against influential land mafia is impossible,” he added.

According to sources, the apex court had earlier directed the Rawalpindi administration in 2007 to formulate a mechanism to deal with land encroachers.

Talking to The Express Tribune, a senior lawyer said that SC’s orders restricted CDA from giving compensation to the encroachers or to hire private firms to reclaim the encroached land. He added that the court directed CDA to take back the possession from the family members of Senator Nayyar Hussain Bokhari and others without offering them any compensation.

However CDA Chairperson Imtiaz Inayat Elahi said that the SC order did not restrict CDA from giving compensation to the people encroaching upon their land.

An official of Rawal Town Municipal Administration told The Express Tribune that police is not cooperating with them in launching an operation against the land mafia. This lack of cooperation, he said, forced the administration to take action against roadside vendors only. Action against owners of illegal plazas and influential land mafia is still “next to impossible”.

Commissioner Rawalpindi Zahid Saeed said that he would launch a campaign against these encroachers if such cases came in his notice. “No one has immunity,” he said.

Responding to a question, he said that owners of the plazas violated some rules in the construction and administration of their buildings and he was trying to regularise them by imposing fines.

A summary on formation of bodies at district level to take action against the encroachers is still pending with the Finance Secretary Punjab, sources inside the Rawalpindi administration said. They said that according to the finance department’s summary, establishment of five bodies have been proposed in district Rawalpindi, Multan, Lahore, Gujranwal and Faisalabad.

Source: Express Tribune

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