Security concerns of the military have left 25 people without access to plots they purchased legally 14 years ago.
In spite of obtaining a favourable decision from the Lahore High Court (LHC) some six years ago, the affected persons — allotted 25 plots of one kanal each at the site of the old district jail near Army House and the new Judicial Complex — have been running from pillar to post to get construction going.
The only hindrance, since 1998, has been the security concerns shown by military authorities, representatives of the affected persons told The Express Tribune. They also presented the LHC Rawalpindi Bench ruling from January 2006, which states that the petitioners are the actual owners of the land and nobody can stop them from building on their own property.
On May 16, 1998, the affected persons obtained the plots at Khayaban-e-Muhammad Ali Jinnah through open auction and got possession from the Punjab Housing and Physical Planning Department about a month later on July 20.
After getting the plots, some of the affected persons started construction but were stopped by military officials and cantonment authorities who cited the same security reasons.
This led to correspondence between the Government of Punjab and the military over the issue. Some of the letters made available to The Express Tribune revealed that the military authorities suggested a buffer zone alongside the road opposite the old jail area and that 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 going rate.
However, the provincial government did not agree to the suggestions, saying the land could only be leased to military authorities at market rates.
The disgruntled plot owners moved the LHC, asking for reimbursement of the money paid to the Punjab government. But provincial authorities assured the court that the petitioners would be allowed to build their houses.
When the Punjab authorities failed to facilitate the affected persons, the petitioners moved a contempt plea in the high court in 2006, where the court ruled no one could stop the allotted persons from constructions and directed the area SHO to take action against those who create hindrances.
Some affected persons said that two of the affected had gotten their money back, while two others had died waiting for a resolution to the issue.
So far, military authorities have blocked any construction. One man tried to raise his house anyway, but cantonment board staff demolished the structure, an affected person alleged.
Senior staffers at the station commander’s office and Rawalpindi Cantonment Board were unwilling to comment, asking The Express Tribune to contact Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) instead. However, the ISPR office in Rawalpindi did not respond despite several calls and messages.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2012.