A court has declared invalid the chief minister’s decision to allot widows forest land plots.
A division bench of the Sindh High Court, comprising justices Gulzar Ahmed and Imam Bux Baloch, gave the decision during the hearing of a constitutional petition (D-1660/2010) filed by NGO Indus Development Organisation.
The organisation, formed to protect the habitat around the Indus River, had challenged the Sindh Agro Forestry Policy 2004, which was introduced during the tenure of former Sindh chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim. Once the policy was approved, riverine forests spread over 17,545 acres were allotted to political figures and influential landlords on a five-year lease, the petitioner claimed.
The petition was pending when, in May 2010, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah moved a summary to the Board of Revenue on the advice of the president and proposed the conversion of this forest land into revenue land. The idea was to allot plots to widows and poor people.
On Thursday, the petitioner’s lawyer, Qazi Ather Ali, submitted a list of would-be beneficiaries from this proposed summary, including DPO Farid Jan Sarhindi, MPA Sharjeel Inam Memon, Makhdoom Shakeeluz Zaman and Haji Sher Sammoo. These people had given fake names to secure plots under the scheme for ‘poor’ people, the lawyer said.
On Thursday, the bench declared the summary as “null and void” and said that the “land reserved for cultivating forests could not be put to any other use”. The bench also ordered the establishment of ‘Peoples Vigilance Committees’ headed by district and sessions judges to protect forests.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2011.
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