PR leased out 10,750 acres of land, SC informed

PR lawyer withdraws business plan for utilising business lands, says ministry to frame policy for govt approval

Our Correspondent January 29, 2023
Police officers walk past the Supreme Court of Pakistan building, in Islamabad, Pakistan April 6, 2022. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro


The Supreme Court, while allowing Pakistan Railways to lease land for public use, has ruled that without changing the status, the department could utilise its unused land for different purposes without causing harm to its original nature for the purpose of generating funds.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial heard the railways plea, seeking a review of the June 14, 2021 order in which the apex court had held that not an inch of the department’s land will be sold, transferred, leased or handed over to a private person; rather all PR land has to be used for its operational purposes only.

During Thursday’s hearing, the chief justice had observed that it was not the job of the state to do business. “It has been proved all over the world, including Pakistan, that state institutions should not get bogged down in private enterprises.”

“We have before us the examples of the Pakistan Steel Mill, PIA and other institutions,” he added.

“State institutions are in deficit; projects, including PIDCs, are lost due to turnover,” he observed, adding that any government agency opting for initiating a business venture has to seek authorisation from the federal government and parliament to develop a lawful regulatory regime, first.

The court noted that out of 169,128 acres of land, 126,426 acres were being used for operational purposes, 16,742 acres has been earmarked for future expansion, 9,985 acres have been identified to be under unauthorised possession of encroachers whereas 10,750 acres has been leased out for a number of purposes.

The PR Board secretary informed the court that the department was collecting Rs2.5 billion annually through leasing out different lands to private parties but needed permission of the court to grant lease for a longer period of time.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked how much damage had been done to Pakistan Railways during the recent floods. The chief justice also said that in the business plan, the railways did not provide detail its income, expenses and losses.

PR is requesting the court that such a large tract of land, i.e., 6,000 acres, requires management and protection from encroachments apart from utilising its potential for generating revenue to the benefit of the organisation and the state.

In its order the court said ambitious targets have been disclosed by PR in the business plan for commercialisation of its land but the court was not concerned with such plans since it has no expertise to judge the viability of such proposals.

For development programmes or proposals, PR must have legal backing to undertake such ventures from the forums (parliament) which authorise such utilisation, the order dictated by CJP said.

The secretary railways said that if the court allows, it has been decided that the railways would take its share for each property lease.

Meanwhile, Barrister Zafarullah Khan, representing PR, withdrew the business plan furnished before the apex court for utilising the Railways lands stating that the Ministry of Railways will frame a policy for approval of the cabinet as well as parliament for a proper statute or rules.

After this, the court adjourned further hearing till March.


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