Railway land be vacated: PAC


Express April 27, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee has directed railways authorities to evict the Pakistan Army, Rangers and Janbaaz Force personnel from Pakistan Railways land.

The three institutions have been in illegal occupation of more than 1,000 acres of Railways land for over a decade now. PAC Chairman Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan asked Secretary Railways Sami Khiljee to set up a committee to identify other official agencies and individuals who have grabbed more than 4,000 acres belonging to PR. “It looks like the country is being run by mafias; whosoever is carrying a gun starts grabbing land,” commented Khan.

He maintained that mechanisms need to be evolved to make sure that powerful institutions are kept in check. “We will either have to evolve and adopt such a mechanism that helps us run the country properly or these groups will do what they want to,” Nisar said after Khiljee informed the meeting that several efforts to get the land vacated have been frustrated by the military. The PAC was also told about the Defence Housing Authority in Lahore having taken over some 500 kanals of land belonging to a Sikh gurdwara.

The chairman has directed Khiljee to submit his report against land grabbers and get back to the committee within a fortnight. “Once we know who the real culprits are, we will go ahead with whatever powers we have,” Nisar said. Some are taking this as indication of a potential parliamentary probe into land grabbing by the military, which is often accused of running private housing schemes for its officers on illegally occupied land.

According to a report prepared by the Accountant General of Pakistan for 2008-09, the Pakistan Army and Rangers are in illegal possession of 1,050 acres of agricultural, residential and commercial land belonging to PR. Institutions associated with the military acquired the land from PR on lease between 1998 and 2005 but failed to restore it to its owners even after the expiry of the lease. Earlier, the committee decided to summon the director general Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to its next meeting to talk about the findings of a probe his department is holding into the reported theft of scrapped items from railways’ godowns.

The committee was informed that PR is in the final stages of preparing a roadmap to revamp the department – including a plan to corporatise PR – in pursuance of a directive by the federal cabinet.

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