Inaction over forest land grab by Bahria Town, Omni Group draws SC’s flak


–CJP lashes out at Sindh govt for failing to recover thousands of acres of forest land allotted illegally to Bahria Town, Omni Group, others

–Petitioner claims Asif Zardari ordered conversion of forest department’s 2.8m acres into revenue land which was annulled by SHC



ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday expressed anger at the Sindh government’s inability to recover forest land in Karachi and Nawabshah allotted illegally to Bahria Town and Omni Group among other realtors, and summoned Malik Riaz in court at the next hearing.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC), headed by the CJP, heard a case pertaining to leasing out forest land in the province and asked what measures were being taken to recover it.

As the hearing went underway, the Sindh advocate general said, “70,000 acres of land was illegally leased and the lease has still not been cancelled.”

When Justice Ijazul Ahsan inquired how Bahria Town got hold of forest land, the petitioner Qazi Athar said that the property developer was given 11,000 acres of forest land in Karachi and another 4,000 acres in Nawabshah. At this, Justice Faisal Arab said, “The forest land is being allotted on the directives of the Sindh chief minister.”

The top judge then remarked that forests are crucial for the environment.

Justice Nisar further told the advocate general that “the court had issued an order on October 30 but the Sindh cabinet has still not implemented it. If you don’t want to work, then leave the post”.

“Why are those who don’t have the right to govern sitting on top posts? Those who do not work, do not deserve to run the government,” Justice Nisar added.

Following this, Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed, “Illegal constructions were made on 145,000 acres of forest land. The provincial government itself admits that influential people were illegally allotted the land. Why are these encroachments on thousands of acres of land not removed?”

The petitioner further alleged that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari had converted forest department’s 2.8 million acres into revenue land — a move, he said, was later declared null and void by the Sindh High Court.

Furthermore, the petitioner claimed that “then-Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah did not get a satellite survey of the land conducted despite the court’s order”.

Moreover, Qazi Athar further said that the land was transferred to Bahria Town, Omni Group and others by illegal means.

At this, the chief justice ordered Bahria Town CEO Malik Riaz to appear before the court in the next hearing. “Malik Riaz is illegally occupying 18,000 acres of forest land. He is very fond of talking on the rostrum, so now he should come.”

Justice Nisar also said that he would not grant Malik’s counsel his request for adjournment and summoned him for the next hearing.

“The Sindh government did not even try to vacate the occupants,” the bench remarked.

“We had directed the Survey General of Pakistan to fix the boundaries of the four provinces; not sure if they have submitted a report or not,” CJP Nisar added.

“I have never seen a government that is admitting that its land has been illegally occupied but is still not taking any action,” the top judge further said.

The chief justice then directed the provincial government to submit a reply by January 8 and the case will then be heard in Karachi on January 9.