SC reprimands govt over failure to remove encroachments at Margalla Hills


–Justice Azmat Saeed says ‘it seems the federal govt will call army to remove encroachments’


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reprimanded the federal government for failing to remove encroachments within the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) despite a ban imposed by the apex court in 2016.

“It seems that the federal government will call the army to remove encroachments as well,” Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh remarked and expressed displeasure over non-removal of encroachments from the area.

The remarks came during the hearing of a suo motu case regarding construction on the Margalla Hills in addition to illegal tree-felling by a two-member bench of the top court.

“Tell us if the federal government cannot remove the encroachment,” Justice Sheikh asked counsels for different federal departments. “If the government is not interested in removing the encroachment then pass the law to legalise the illegal construction,” he added.

The SC judge also came down hard on State Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.

“The minister should spend more time governing than indulging in full-time politics,” said the judge. Later, the bench ordered the minister to devise a comprehensive plan regarding the removal of encroachments and present it before the apex court within one week.

Earlier this month, the SC had expressed annoyance over trees felled and unchecked development within the MHNP in sheer violation of the ban imposed by the court last year.

After the apex court’s directives, an enquiry into deforestation in the MHNP was formally launched by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The CDA acquired the entire park, which is of immense ecological significance and is a protected area, in 1999.

Some areas of the park continue to face deforestation along with misuse of other natural resources, creeping human settlement, overgrazing and erosion, despite people being barred from altering the forest or from constructing in it.