LAHORE – The Bhatta Chowk expansion plan is likely to land in the eye of the storm over acquisition issue as Punjab government has released Rs 1.15 billion regarding compensation money but shop owners are reluctant to sell their properties and want the deal negotiable on their own terms and condition.

The government has issued the notices to more than 200 shops, hotels and plazas running their business at Bhatta Chowk. According to the notice, under major Infrastructure development in budget of 2010-11, government needs to acquire land for widening/improvement of Ghazi Road from Package-11 of the Lahore Ring Road Project to Rehman Villas, including improvement of Bhatta Chowk.

The chowk is positioned at Ghazi Road running through DHA and Baidian Road leading to RA Bazaar in Cantonment. Bhatta Chowk is also one of main approach toward Allama Iqbal International Airport. The notice said that government will hold a meeting on February 15 in which land owners had been called to gather at Bagh-e-Rehmat, behind Bhatta Chowk market with documents regarding property details, evidence of ownership rights, number of owners, areas of land. It also said that notices had been given to property owners under Act 9, 1894.

COMMITTEE TO HANDLE AFFAIRS: An official in CM secretariat revealed that a committee was going to be constituted comprising of local leaders, parliamentarians and politicians to finalize the acquisition deal, smoothen the delivery of compensation money and deal with any possible obstruction by miscreants.

He said around 250 people from Defence at Ghazi Road to Darulkhalafa had illegally occupied 10 to 15 feet of road and these encroachers will not be compensated at all. “Only those people who would have legal documents for the ownership of land would be negotiated and they would be paid as per DC rate in the area,” he added.

FACTORS TO BE CONSIDERED: Akram, an owner of restaurant at the chowk told Pakistan Today that no one could take his land by force. “We will attend the meeting and decide the matter weighing up best option,” he added. Javed Khala, an owner of Pan Shop, said that if the compensation did not correspond to market rate, he would never sell his shop on throwaway price.

“We have three partners in the shop including my brother, and unless three agree for the deal, sell-out plan could not be workable,” he added. A plaza owner, Nadeem Butt, said that I had a dispute with my uncle about the ownership of land, measuring 10 marlas, and the case was in court. What will be fate of such lands in litigation, he questioned.

Sources in Lahore Cantonment Board (LCB) said that encroachers were the ‘big issue’ in the chowk’s widening plan. The illegal occupant, sources said, will not let the deal through and create uproar to protect their unlawful possessions.

EXPANSION WAS APPROVED: Chowk’s expansion plan was approved, when Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif presided over a meeting last month. The meeting said that owing to increasing pressure of traffic on Bhatta Chowk, commuters faced problems and the road too was in a dilapidated condition.

The meeting directed the Lahore commissioner to start the chowk’s extension, and directed that project be handed over to National Logistic Cell within next 15 days.