A ray of hope has finally emerged for 25 families who have been waiting to get permission to build on land that was allotted to them near Army House some 14 years ago.
During a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence on Monday, Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi promised to provide the complete details of the case in the next meeting.
Her assurance came after the director general (DG) of military lands and cantonments could not satisfy the committee on the legal position of the case.
Initially, the DG informed the committee that the Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench had directed the Punjab government to return the principal amount with interest to all stakeholders who were allotted plots measuring one kanal each on the site of the old district jail, near Army House and the new Judicial Complex.
However, Senator Farhatullah Babar contradicted the DG’s statement, saying that the LHC had directed the cantonment authorities to allow construction work in the area. It had also directed the local police to take legal action against those who created obstructions for affected families.
Following the DG’s failure to satisfy the committee members, the defence secretary intervened and assured the meeting that case details would be provided during the next meeting.
On May 16, 1998, the families were allotted plots on Khayaban-e-Muhammad Ali Jinnah through an open auction and got possession of land from the Punjab Housing and Physical Planning Department a month later on July 20.
After getting posession of the plots, some affected persons started construction but were told to stop by military officials and cantonment authorities due to ‘security concerns’.
This led to correspondence between the Government of Punjab and the military. Some of the letters available with The Express Tribune revealed that military authorities had suggested a buffer zone alongside the road opposite the old jail area and said that the land on the other end of the residential area be given to the army. The military had also asked the Punjab government to give the land to them on lease for an amount much lower than the market rate.
However, the provincial government stood its ground and did not agree to the proposal, saying the land could only be leased to the military authorities on market rates.
The plot owners then moved the LHC, asking for reimbursement for the amount paid to the Punjab government, but the provincial authorities assured the court that the petitioners would be allowed to build their houses.
Following the government’s failure to facilitate the families, the petitioners moved a contempt plea in high court in 2006 and obtained a verdict stating that no one could stop the allotted persons from building on their own property.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2012.