The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2015.

LAHORE: The government has assured the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) that the construction of the Orange Line Metro Train project will not have any impact on the Shalamar Gardens.

The Shalamar Gardens are part of the UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. On October 29, the organisation had sought an explanation from the Punjab government regarding construction of the project.

The letter had asked the government to halt work near the site until necessary material had been submitted to the UNESCO’s advisory body. It had reminded the government of paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention that stated that parties had to inform the World Heritage Committee before commencing work on or near a world heritage site.

The government has now written to the UNESCO that Shalamar Gardens are part of the country’s national heritage and it will ensure its protection.

“The construction of an elevated track for the line will take place 29 feet away from the gardens. Increasing this distance is not possible since that will lead to more land acquisition. This will lead to more people losing their homes,” the letter states.

The letter states that to reduce vibrations, the speed of the train in the area will be brought down to 42 kilometres per hour for 48km/h. “This will ensure that the gardens are not impacted. According to German standards, vibrations from the train cannot cause any harm to the monument or its foundation.

 The Orange Line design is based on the theoretical 2D-FEA model of pier-ground system of light rail train viaduct system in which ground-borne vibrations are negligible beyond 10 to 12 metres from the main pier of the rail,” the letter states.

The letter states that the constructed elevated track will be slim and would not create a significant visual barrier for the site. “The height of the track will be 12 metres which will improve the view of the monument. It will provide a visual tour to the surrounding communities,” the letter states.


The Express Tribune, January 3rd

LAHORE: The government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Saturday with the Turkish Housing Development Administration (TOKI), a state agency, to build 50,000 housing units for low-income people in the Punjab.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said the housing societies developed over the last few years had been for the elite. “This project of the government aims at providing houses to low-income people. The government will build these houses and hand them over to the people on instalments. There will be no interest. This model is successfully being followed in Turkey and other countries. Turkey will provide us guidance as a brotherly country,” he said.

The chief minister said that TOKI built 50,000 houses a year in Turkey. “I have requested them to build 25,000 houses a year in the Punjab,” he said. Turkey’s Ambassador to Pakistan S Babur Girgn said the project was another initiative between the two countries and would hopefully be completed successfully.

The houses will be constructed ove`r the next two years. Minister for Housing Tanveer Aslam Malik and TOKI president Mehmet Ergun Turan signed the MoU.

According to the agreement, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, government of the Punjab and TOKI would collaborate on the project.

“On request of the GoP, the TOKI has agreed to provide full technical consultancy support within its merit to Punjab in its endeavour to provide 50,000 housing units for lower and middle income residents of the Punjab in the next two years.

Experts from both sides will work out the details to arrive at an agreement to benefit from the TOKI’s knowledge and experience. The focus will be on adapting TOKI’s financial, technical, managerial and business model for Punjab. For this purpose, there will be exchange of experts who would devise the scope and modalities of the technical support,” the MoU stated.

“The TOKI will also share its experience on building of public sector buildings including hospitals, public offices, stadiums and projects of urban transformation,” it stated.

“Another issue being faced by the Punjab is horizontal housing. This trend needs to be changed to vertical housing units in order to best utilise precious land,” it said. “The parties may jointly or individually organise events and exchange delegations or participate in such events organised by other party in furtherance of the above objectives,” it stated.



The News, December 21, 2015

MIANWALI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Sunday warned the local Seelo community to hand over their lands, situated adjacent to the Namal College Mianwali, for the construction of a stadium.

“I politely ask them to either sell their lands or donate it for the construction of the Namal College Stadium. If they will keep on resisting, the PTI will take over these lands under Section 4 after coming into power.

“If they sell their lands right now, they will get some money. However, if they refuse, they will not only lose their lands but will also get nothing under PTI rule,” warned Imran Khan.

He was speaking at the Namal College convocation here. He said the provincial government was in contact with the people concerned for seeking additional land for the construction of a stadium adjacent to the college.

He advised the youngsters to work to make their dreams come true instead of only focusing on doing jobs.Imran asked the students to play a role in bringing about a revolution for the better future of Pakistan. He said serving the nation should be the main aim of every citizen.

The PTI chief also lashed out at the incumbent rulers for making money through all means.Later, a representative of the Seelo community told Geo News that the PTI did not want to purchase land for the stadium but grab it. He said the 40 kanals of land for construction of the college. But now they would not give their lands, come what may.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan’s own tribe turned against him after his ‘polite’ expression of what was perceived as a veiled threat. The members of Khan’s own clan turned against him when he asked them to give up their lands to build a sports stadium.

The tribe members said that they were the rightful owners of those lands of which no one could deprive them. “What will such a leader do if he comes into power who wants to expel his own people even before,” they asked. The land owners who had donated 40 kanals of land to Imran Khan for university had now taken a firm stance not to give any land.

They say Khan who used to beg for the land is now giving veiled threats, adding that he can do whatever he wants. The land owners have protested against Khan’s statement and said that they would move the court if forced out of their land. “How can a leader do justice with a nation when he can’t do justice with own people?” one protester asked. The PTI chief attracted protests not only from land owners but also from other locals.



The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2015

 LAHORE: A few people gathered outside the Chinese consulate in Lahore on Wednesday to stage a protest demonstration against the Orange Line Metro Train project.

“We want to register our protest with the Chinese government,” said Maryam Hussain, one of the protestors.

She said the Chinese government should know about the destruction that will take place as it’s an implementing partner of the project.

Wielding placards in both Chinese and English, the protestors said they wanted to ensure that the Chinese government knew about what was being wreaked on heritage sites and homes under the aegis of the project’s construction.

Raheemul Haque, another protestor, said it was important to realise that the project’s construction would force a great number of businesses to close. He said over 300 people from Kapurthala House alone would be rendered homeless by the project. He said the area was replete with such examples.

The protestors said the project’s construction would lead to a loss of culture as well.

In addition to this, they said that the government needed to make the project more transparent.

They said digging for foundations would damage heritage sites.

They proposed that the government should revert to the original plan and use tunnel technology in connection with the project.

This said this would reduce land acquisition and prevent damage to sites along the project’s route. Under the current plan, the track would be elevated near Chauburji and Shalimar Gardens.

“We urge the Chinese government to take serious note of the project and demand that stringent measures are taken to ensure that these factors are kept in mind,” Imrana Tiwana of the Lahore Conservation Society said.

She said Delhi was a good example of use of tunnel technology to evade sensitive areas in a city.


The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2015.

 KOHISTAN: Landowners in Kohistan continued their protest for the seventh consecutive day on Saturday over delays in making Basri Boundary Commission Report public. They urged the government to settle the boundary dispute once and for all.

The villagers from Harban Bhasha in Kohistan started their protest by setting up a camp on the side of Karakoram Highway (KKH) near Harban Nala and blocked the road for an hour every day. They suspended traffic passing through the only land route between Gilgit-Baltistan and the rest of country.

Speaking to protesters, QWP Kohistan General Secretary Asadullah Qureshi said the actual dispute was over an area of two kilometres. However,  the policies of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda)had extended it to over eight kilometres, which resulted in a dispute between tribes of Kohistan and G-B.

Haji Nemat Khan, another tribal elder, said following a firing incident between tribes of both areas regarding the ownership of land, the federal government constituted a single member judicial commission named Basri Boundary Commission.

However, even after a year and despite completion of report, the federal and G-B governments were deliberately withholding results. He said if their demands were not accepted, the tribes of Kohistan will march towards Thordas from December 1 and block traffic from both sides of KKH.

The federal government deployed Rangers in the area to put an end to the long-simmering armed territorial conflict between communities of Diamer, Gilgit and Kohistan districts.

The last skirmish occurred on March 1, 2014 where six tribespeople from both sides were killed and over two dozen people were injured. The fulcrum of the dispute started since 2006 when Basri check post on KKH separating Kohistan from Gilgit-Baltistan was made.



The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2015.

 LAHOREThe Revenue Department informed Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday that it had retrieved 6,900 acres of Forest Department from the illegal possession of Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Sardar Sher Ali Gorchani.

Chief Settlement Commissioner Saqib Aziz and some Revenue Department officials had appeared in the court. They submitted a written reply to Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah informing the court that 6,900 acres had been retrieved from Gorchani.

They said Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif would now decide whether the land should be transferred to the Forest Department or to some other department. Justice Shah ordered the Revenue Department to submit a report about the remaining land and adjourned the hearing until February 11.

Sardar Ali Raza, a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPA, had filed the petition submitting that the deputy speaker had grabbed the land with the connivance of some officials from the Revenue Department.

He said Gorchani was cultivating the land after cutting the woods on it.

He had requested the court to order the recovery of the land.

Lahore High Court (LHC) granted more time to the Prosecution Department on Thursday to argue on the appeal challenging an anti-terrorism court’s verdict of acquitting Mustafa Kanju, son of former state minister Siddique Kanju, of a murder charge.

Mustafa Kanju is accused of killing Zain and injuring another passer-by near Lahore’s Cavalry Ground on April 1 following a collision between his car and another.

On Thursday, Additional Prosecutor General Abdul Samad appeared before the court and sought more time to argue the case. An LHC division bench, headed by Justice Shahid Hameed Dar, accepted his plea and adjourned the hearing until December 22.

Earlier, the LHC court reserved verdict on the maintainability of the appeal filed by the provincial government after Prosecutor General Ehtesham Qadir Shah had concluded his arguments on the admissibility of the appeal.

Shah had argued that the trial court had acquitted Kanju in haste and in disregard of facts. He said the court had not recorded statements of police witnesses who had recovered a weapon from Kanju.

Some of the prosecution witnesses had retracted their statements after which the court had acquitted him and his accomplices, said the prosecutor general.

He informed the court that the complainant, during a meeting with the chief minister, had expressed satisfaction with police’s performance but later alleged that police officials had obtained his signatures on blank papers.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali had taken suo motu notice of the acquittal.

Lahore High Court on Thursday allowed 14 petitions filed by students seeking directions for their registration for grade 9 examinations with various boards.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah heard petitions filed by Robina Bibi, Syeda Ghazal Gillani and other students.

Counsel for the petitioner said intermediate and secondary education boards in Lahore, Gujranawala and Faisalabad had banned registration of grade 9 students under 12 years of age.

He said the boards were refusing to register the petitioners for being underage.

He said the ban imposed on registration of underage student was unconstitutional and illegal. He asked the court to direct the boards to register the students.

A law officer appearing behalf of the boards said underage students could not be registered under the examination policy.

The court, after hearing arguments, allowed all petitions and directed the boards to register the students.


The News, 19 December 2015

KARACHI: Site Ltd has cancelled the allotment of 83 industrial plots at SITE Super Highway on the recommendation of scrutiny committee, said a statement issued Friday.

The scrutiny committee was constructed according to the direction of the SITE Ltd Board for the overview of overlapping, physical verifications and other allotment relevant matters, said the statement. The committee consists of Managing Director Site Ltd, DC SITE, Chairman SITE Association and Chief Engineer SITE Ltd.

The committee reviewed the overlapping, physical verifications, and other allotment relevant matters in several meetings, and finally recommended the cancelation of the issuance of letters.



The Express Tribune, December 7th,  2015.

Mohammad Zafar

QUETTA: The Balochistan National Party (BNP) will convene a multiparty conference (APC) in Islamabad in the coming days to discuss the reservations of Baloch people on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with all political groupings, party chief Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal said on Sunday.

Mengal, the former chief minister of Balochistan, made this announcement during a news conference at his residence in Quetta on Sunday. “The federal government ignores members of the National Assembly and provincial assembly members elected from Gwadar, while taking crucial decisions regarding the CPEC and building the port city,” he told the newsmen.

“BNP held its council session last month and the newly elected leaders have thoroughly discussed the agreements and memorandums of understanding pertaining to CPEC and found out that the interests of the local people have been ignored and even the local representatives have not been taken on board.”

He was accompanied by Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini and office bearers of BNP during the news conference. Mengal said he will soon announce the date for the multiparty conference.

The BNP lawmakers and the Balochistan Assembly members from Gwadar and the party leadership accused the federal government of breaking the promises it made regarding the CPEC. “The western or eastern route is not the issue of Baloch people. The Baloch people want ownership of their resources and the coast, that’s all we want, which is our legitimate right and the Constitution of Pakistan allows us to demand this,” he told reporters.

Mengal said his party is not against development, especially in Gwadar, but it will oppose, even resist, moves taken against the wishes of the Baloch people.

“We are going to Islamabad where all the political parties will be invited to thoroughly discuss the reservations and concerns of Baloch people and even evaluate that these reservations and demands are legitimate or not?” he said.

Mengal admitted that his party colleagues had attended the APC chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Quetta and said that the PM did not keep his word.

“China has announced plans to invest Rs46 billion, but the government has yet to share the details of how it plans to spend it,” he said. “We are told that around Rs6 billion will be spent on infrastructure, while Rs40 billion will be used for private investment…however we are not given the details nor we are told where they are developing the economic or industrial zones?”

Sardar Akhtar Mengal said it is beyond comprehension why there is so much secrecy surrounding the agreements and MoUs. “The people of Balochistan are, after all, the owners of this land and coast. They should know and be told each and everything,” he said.



The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2015.

PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government will come up with a multi-pronged strategy in order to pressure the federal government to give preference to the western alignment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which has been billed as a ‘game changer’ for the region.

Leaders of all parliamentary parties in the K-P Assembly, including Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, met on Tuesday at the assembly hall where they were briefed on the multibillion-dollar project by Pakhtunkhwa Uloosi Tehreek chief Said Alam Mahsud.

Participants decided to introduce a resolution in the provincial legislature demanding the federal government implement the decisions taken at an all parties’ conference on May 28, 2015 vis-à-vis the CPEC in letter and spirit.

They voiced concern at the alleged diversion of most CPEC-related development projects to Punjab, according to an official handout issued after the meeting. They decided the provincial government would arrange a meeting of the K-P political leaders with the National Highway Authority (NHA) within 10 days. In the meantime, all parliamentary parties will collate their viewpoints in an effort to come up with unanimous demands. They said they will not allow the federal government to deny K-P people benefits of the CPEC.

The meeting participants also voiced concern over the information disseminated through the Planning Commission website after May 28. They vowed not to budge on the decisions taken on May 28. They said they would also arrange a briefing for China’s ambassador in Islamabad, NHA, political leadership and K-P governor to highlight the promises made to the K-P government. They noted with concern that the road network in Punjab was being improved for industrial estates to be built along the CPEC route.

A PML-N faction turned out to be the lone voice of dissent at the meeting, a source told The Express Tribune. The PML-N faction and K-P government leaders had a brief exchange of arguments. The former believed the K-P government’s stance was too aggressive and unfeasible. K-P government officials, however, shot back saying that if needed Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act will be invoked.


The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2015.

ISLAMABADA Pak-China Science, Technology, Commerce and Logistic Park is to be established in Islamabad at a cost of 1.5 billion dollars. Giving details of the project at a news briefing in Islamabad on Tuesday, Minister for Science and Technology Rana Tanveer Hussain said it would be set up as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It would serve as a platform for technological and commercial linkages between Pakistan and China besides promoting investment and financing, e-commerce and research and development. The minister said Pakistan would provide 500 hectares of land for establishment of the park and all other investment would be made by China. He said three sites have tentatively been identified and a delegation of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corporation is arriving this month for finalization of the site. He said foundation stone of the project is expected to be laid in March next year and it would be completed in ten years in three phases.


Dawn, December 2nd, 2015


LAHORE: Following resistance shown against the route of Orange Line Metro Train by the residents of various localities, mainly the Jain Mandir, Kapoorthala House and Katchi Abadi (slum area) of Railway Colony, the government is considering various proposals to find out a solution that could help it acquire the land for the project without any fuss.

Official sources say that since the residents reacted to the government’s land acquisition plan very angrily, various proposals are under consideration these days to appease them and get the job done at the same time.

“Keeping in view the sensitivity of the issue, a majority of the senior officials are of the view that a very handsome compensation package is the only way to acquire land in these areas amicably. So a very good compensation package is likely to be offered to the residents of these localities,” a senior official told Dawn on Tuesday.

The official, who requested anonymity, said though many of the residents have no or incomplete documents to prove their ownership of the property, particularly in Jain Mandir, the government might give them ownership rights first or accept them as legal owners of the property they have been occupying since 1947 or before.

“In Jain Mandir, many residents are either occupying the land on the basis of stamp paper, PT-1 or registration in the survey lists. Others have proper ownership documents (registry etc). So the government feels, particularly at this time, that it should not enter into a another dispute over property ownership documents. Therefore, it may accept all such residents as legal owners of the property and compensate them according to the market value, or may be more than that, of their property,” the official explained.

He said another proposal to give houses to the resident to be displaced by the project as compensation for their property was also under consideration. For this, the government might allocate a piece of state land in some other area of the city for the construction of houses or apartments for the affectees, he added.

“I don’t know whether this proposal is viable or not, it is also under consideration. But one thing I know well that the compensation package will be a handsome one, as the government wants residents’ consent by all means,” the official believed.

Residents of Jain Mandir, Kapoorthala House and Parachute Colony, a slum area in the Railway Colony, have been staging protests since the government announced its land acquisition plans about a month back.

In some of these protests have also been joined by the civil society activists who believe that the proposed Orange Line route was a threat to city heritage, urging the government to change it and save various heritage sites from harm and residents from displacement. “According to our information, as many as 400 houses situated in Jain Mandir and adjoining areas — Bangali building, Auqaf and Evacuee Trust Property Board quarters/flats, Ahata Baba Wazeeran, Kapoorthala House, Katcha Lake Road, GPO Colony etc — are set to be acquired,” he said.

He said though various political leaders of the PML-N had approached the residents, the government was yet to announce the compensation package.

At Jain Mandir and Kapoorthala House, hundreds of houses will reportedly be acquired for the construction of 1.72km underground portion of the Orange Line track employing ‘cut-and-cover’ method. Similarly, at Parachute Colony, the government will have to demolish as many as 40 houses on the train track to link Boharwala Chowk (Metro Train Station/Railway Station stop) with the intersection before the UET station via Sultan Pura station.

Talking to Dawn, Asif Ali, a resident of Katcha Lake Road (near Jain Mandir) said all the residents were united to save their property.

He said since the Lahore High Court had already stayed the land acquisition process in Kapoorthala House, the residents of Jain Mandir, Katcha Lake Road etc were also planning to move the court. He said the government wanted to hold a meeting with the residents and other stakeholders at a local hotel on Dec 3 (tomorrow).

“What the government will offers us, we don’t know yet, we can make a decision only after the announcement of government’s compensation package,” Ali added.


Dawn, December 3rd, 2015

ISLAMABAD: A corruption watchdog, the Transparency International Pakistan, sought a ban from the Supreme Court on Wednesday on re-allotment of land whose allotment had been cancelled by the Sindh government after clandestine deals had been exposed in the court.

The organisation is following a number of cases regarding allotment of 871 acres along Malir River, 300 acres along Clifton Beach, 300 acres in Nooriabad and 5,222 acres in Thatta.

It filed a fresh application, asking the court to bar the authorities concerned of the Sindh government from re-allotting the same 40,000 acres of land.

 The allotments highlighted through the court cases had been cancelled by joint teams of the National Accountability Bureau and the Sindh Board of Revenue.

According to the application, a summary approved by Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has incorporated a provision for increasing the existing 30-year lease of land granted for poultry, agriculture or cattle farming to 99 years. It alleged that the cancellation of illegal allotment of the vast areas was being stopped under political pressure and billions of rupees were involved in the scam.

It pointed out the recent case of the Moon Garden project in Karachi which had been built illegally on railway’s land in 1997, affecting over 200 families. “This is a typical case of encroachment by the land mafia and, therefore, requires urgent attention of the Supreme Court” which should lay down a “mechanism or guidelines for the builders and the leasing authorities” to ensure that the land’s status was legal before the approval and sale of housing projects.


The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2015.

Mudassir Raja

RAWALPINDI: The Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench on Wednesday directed the district administration and cantonment managers to submit replies on a petition regarding illegal encroachments in various parts of the city.

Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi directed the district coordination officer, the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) director general, executive officers of Rawalpindi and Chaklala cantonments, and the administrators of Rawal and Potohar towns to appear in person on December 12.

The judge also directed the city managers to submit detailed responses within seven days after Advocate Anwar Dar filed a public interest petition in the high court.

The petitioner told The Express Tribune that after he provided the bench with photographs of various encroached roads and markets, the court asked the government officials to be present in the court during the next hearing.

He said that Justice Lodhi expressed his displeasure over rampant encroachments and the inefficiency of city managers.

The petitioner, while citing the heads of the district administration and cantonment areas as respondents, has petitioned before the court for the removal of encroachments and cleaning of over 100 seasonal streams in the district.

Advocate Dar had argued before the court that the district administration and the cantonment authorities had failed to remove encroachments from major city roads.

He added that security agencies had also closed many roads, citing security concerns.

The petitioner said that residents of Rawalpindi had to suffer mental and physical disturbance due to the encroachments.

He claimed that there was a strong public perception that the encroachers had occupied different roads and markets in connivance with the concerned authorities.

The petitioner said that encroachments had led to massive traffic jams adding to woes of the commuters.

He added that areas such as Tench Bhatta, Dehri Hassanabad, cantonment areas, Raja Bazaar, and Commercial Market were full of encroachments.

Advocate Dar prayed before the court to direct the concerned authorities to remove the encroachments and ensure cleanliness on the roadways.


The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2015.

Rizwan Shehzad

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court has put the federal government and the management of a housing society on notice for failing to implement Supreme Court orders in a multi-billion land scam relating to the society.

Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi issued notices to the Federation through the Establishment Division secretary and the National Police Foundation (NPF) managing director to submit responses within two weeks.

The court on Wednesday issued the notices on an appeal filed by Masroor Sarwar Khan, one of 59 affected people of the NPF housing scheme praying the court to order the respondents to implement the apex court’s October 31, 2013 judgment.

The SC had taken suo motu notice of the NPF scam in 2011 and had directed the police foundation to accommodate the petitioners within two months of the judgment being handed down, but it has been five months since the review petition order, and the respondent has still not complied.

The petitioner further claimed that the police foundation management is allotting plots to “influential members in NPF housing scheme in Sector E-11 in violation of the rights and the agreement.” The petitioner had entered an agreement with the respondent on May 26, 2011 that he will withdraw his petition in the SC due to the pendency of a review plea in the court.

The petitioner in his second plea has invoked the constitutional jurisdiction of the IHC, praying it to issue directions to the respondent to implement the apex court judgment, which itself ordered the implementation of the May 26, 2011 agreement, and allot one commercial plot to the petitioner and nine commercial plots to the other affected persons as compensation.

The SC had taken suo motu notice of the issue on a news report published in The Express Tribune on January 30, 2011.

The story was based on an inquiry report submitted to the interior secretary that former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Anjum Aqeel Khan acted as a broker in connivance with four NPF officials to commit fraud to the tune of Rs6 billion in the procurement of land in E-11 for the housing society.

A case was registered in 2011 and the report was called from the interior ministry. During the inquiry, the NPF officials’ and the MNA’s statements were recorded. Khan gave an undertaking to surrender a piece of land and to pay for 126 kanals.

Apart from illegalities committed by the office bearers of the NPF in connivance with Khan, the allotment of plots in the housing scheme was made in violation of bylaws and other conditions, the SC judgment stated.

In addition, it stated, the Board of Directors (BoD) had gone ahead without observing any legal or codal formalities such as advertising in the press and without framing any bylaws for the allotment of plot, while poor policemen are still facing hardships in finding housing.

The land earmarked for public parks was converted into plots for allotment to the IG, DIG, SSP, and other police officers, it added.

The illegalities and irregularities in the procurement of land committed by the BoD in connivance with Khan are worst examples of corruption and corrupt practices and all those who are responsible are liable to be penalized in accordance with the law, the judgment read.

The court had also authorised the recovery of the lost amount through coercive measures.

In its review petition order, the apex court had ordered Khan to fulfil his outstanding liability of 126 Kanals of land as stated in an undertaking by him through an agreement dated 27.5.2011.

The SC had ordered that if he was not in a position to provide 126 Kanals of land to the NPF, he must pay the full market price for 88 developed plots in accordance with the 54:46 ratio formula of the CDA.


The News, December 03, 2015

Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: In its recent drive against cases of the illegal doling out of state land, the Sindh government has cancelled almost 20,000 acres of such allotments.

Provincial government sources said the cancelled land included illegal allotments made by the authorities both in Karachi and other parts of the province.Details show that the allotment of 8,579 acres leased out to different individuals for 30 years stands cancelled. Almost 3,000 acres of land given to 70 urban villages has also been cancelled.

In another category, approval in 24 cases involving 5,910 acres of land of the Malir riverbed have also been rescinded. Allotments made in 332 cases involving around 1,252 acres of land by misusing the Section 17 of the Colonisation of Government Land Act 1912 also stand cancelled.

In seven cases, a total of 287 acres of land was allotted on the recommendation of a regularisation committee. This allotment has also been withdrawn. In 22 cases allotment of 523 acres has been cancelled after the authorities found violations of terms and conditions.

Following the anti-corruption drive of the federal authorities, including the Rangers, NAB and FIA in Karachi, the Sindh Board of Revenue had recently sought the cancellation of all illegal allotments of land made in the past.

On the recommendation of the Sindh Land Utilisation Department, the chief minister approved the proposals for undoing the allotment of thousands of precious government lands doled out to influential persons and favourites during these years.

The provincial Board of Revenue had also recommended the abolition of its own Overseeing Committee that was made under Senior Member Board of Revenue (SMBR) in 2010 to approve the cases of land allotment in the name of exchange of land.

It was believed that during all these years, Section 17 of Colonisation of Government Land Act 1912, in particular, was massively misused to the advantage of influential allottees both by the SMBR Overseeing Committee and the deputy commissioners in almost all the districts of the province.

The Section 17 of the Act allows deputy commissioners to exchange land on the request of a tenant. However, to the benefit of influential people and favourites, tens of thousands of acres of precious government land have been allotted since 2010.

However, the details of the cancelled land show that in this particular category, only 1,252 acres of land has been cancelled.Sources said that the Sindh Board of Revenue should again focus on the allotments made under Section 17 of the Colonisation of Government Land Act 1912. It is believed that many deputy commissioners have not cancelled the allotment of lands made in violation of the law to influential figures in the province.

It is said in most cases the deputy commissioners didn’t even bother to engage the provincial Board of Revenue or even the Oversee Committee of the SMBR while making these allotments. Owing to this practice, there was no idea even to the Board of Revenue of the exact quantum of the government land involved.

Meanwhile, the sources said the Land Utilisation Department had also requested Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah to cancel the land allotted to Dr Asim Hussain. Though several weeks have passed, the chief minister has not yet approved the summary.


Dawn, December 4th, 2015

KARACHI: After suffering a month-long delay due to some ‘unavoidable’ reasons, the first phase of the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) — Green Line and Orange Line — in Karachi is likely to begin by the middle of December, it emerged on Thursday.

Officials associated with the project said the BRTS-I would ‘revolutionise’ the city’s existing transport system on completion after a year.

Sources said the Orange Line project, which was planned to be launched in the first week of November, could not go as per plan, as the offers received from the bidding companies were ‘extremely impracticable’.

They said the lowest bid for the Orange Line was Rs2.2 billion, which was 80 per cent more expensive than (Rs1.3 billion) what the government consultant, Nespak, had recommended.

It was for this reason that delayed the project compelling the authorities concerned to seek fresh bids for the project, the sources said, adding that the bidding would be made this month again.

At the same time, they said, the provincial government had paid Rs200 million to the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, Sui Southern Gas Company Limited, PTCL and the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) for relocation of their utilities along the route of the Orange Line.

The sources said the utilities would complete relocation within two months during which the government would complete its process of rebidding. Once the relocation was done, the successful bidder would start its work and complete it by the end of next year, they said.

Orange Line will connect Orangi to the Board Office, Nazimabad, with the route of the Green Line, a project being commenced by the federal government, according to the officials.

They said the Green Line project, too, would begin in the mid of December.

Green Line is a 17-km project linking Surjani and Gurumandir. It will cost Rs16.85 billion, which included a substantial elevated portion between Buffer Zone and the Lasbella intersection.

The officials said the provincial government had decided to award the Rs18 billion Yellow Line project to a Chinese company, CUEC, though a formal deal of the public-private project was yet to be signed.

The 26.5-km-long project will connect Jam Sadiq Ali Bridge in Korangi Industrial Area to Saddar via Korangi Road, FTC, Sharea Faisal, Shahrah-i-Qaideen and culminate at the Preedi Street near the Parking Plaza, Saddar.

The officials said the Sindh government would put in a share of 14pc, while the CUEC’s share would be 16pc and the rest would be loan provided by the Chinese government. The project will be completed within two years after signing of the deal.


The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2015.

ISLAMABAD: Urbanisation provides Pakistan with the potential to transform its economy to join the ranks of richer nations, but the country, like others in South Asia, has so far struggled to make the most of that opportunity, says a new World Bank report.

The report “Leveraging Urbanisation in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Liveability” was presented at the third Pakistan Urban Forum.

Difficulty in dealing with the pressures that increased urban populations put on infrastructure, basic services, land, housing and the environment has fostered what the report calls “messy and hidden” urbanisation in Pakistan and throughout the region. This, in turn, has helped to constrain Pakistan’s full realisation of the prosperity and liveability benefits of urbanisation.

“Properly managed urbanisation can enhance both the prosperity and liveability of cities,” said Peter Ellis, Lead Urban Economist at the World Bank. “This is certainly the case for Pakistan, which is the most urbanised large country in South Asia and derives so much of its economic growth from cities.”

Estimates indicate that cities generate up to 78% of Pakistan’s gross domestic product and the government’s Vision 2025 places a premium on urban job growth. Planning ahead for urban growth can help create vibrant and productive cities that fuel the country’s growth, but that will require dealing with the problems posed by the messy and hidden urbanisation to date.

Messy urbanisation in Pakistan, according to the report, is reflected in the existence of low-density sprawl and the fact that cities are growing outward beyond administrative boundaries, creating challenges for planning, transportation and provision of public services.

Hidden urbanisation stems from official national statistics understating the share of the population living in areas with urban traits. Officially, 36% of Pakistanis lived in urban settlements in 2010, but the World Bank estimates that the actual share of population living in areas with urban characteristics may be as high as 55%.

Acknowledging the true extent of urban areas can help to facilitate better planning and metropolitan management and failure to address these problems can make cities less liveable. Pakistan faced an urban housing shortage of approximately 4.4 million units in 2010.

The 2015 liveability index of the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Karachi 135th out of 140 cities; Dhaka was the only major city in South Asia with a lower ranking.

The Lahore agglomeration, for example, expanded to absorb those of Chiniot, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Lalamusa and Sialkot. In fact, the Lahore agglomeration meets its Delhi equivalent to form one continuously lit belt with an estimated population of 73.4 million, slightly less than the population of Turkey.

“Taking steps to help Pakistan’s cities to realise their potential is critical as the urban population is expected to increase approximately 40 million to an estimated 118 million by 2030,” said Patchamuthu Ilangovan, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan.



The Express Tribune, November 23rd,  2015.

Mohammad Zafar

QUETTA: It took the Balochistan government five minutes to hand over 9,000 acres of the Hingol National Park land to a federal agency, in a move that not only subverted rules of the provincial legislature but also threatens the sparse forest cover in the region.

On November 9, 2015, Provincial Minister for Information and Parliamentary Affairs Abdul Raheem Ziaratwal tabled the Balochistan Protection and Preservation of Forest and Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2015 in the provincial assembly. The legislators moved to quickly pass the bill.

They had little idea that they signed off 9,000 acres (36.42 square kilometres) of the province’s land to the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO).

Deputy Speaker Abdul Quddus Bizenjo said the land being handed over was owned by the Forest Department and was located in Lasbela district, near Karachi.

But why did the legislators ignore rules of the very house in which they sit? According to the rules of business, any bill or amendment needs to be thoroughly debated before it is tabled for approval.

Ziaratwal, however, had submitted a motion along with the bill that sought to exempt it from rule No 84 of the assembly. It says a bill is supposed to be presented before the concerned parliamentary committee for thorough review and vetting before it is presented on the floor of the assembly for debate and voting.

But with the motion to exempt the bill from the rule, it was passed without any consultation or discussion in concerned committees, nor did any MPA demand a debate on the bill.

Even though none of its MPAs raised any questions about the bill when the government was bulldozing it through the assembly, Balochistan National Party’s information secretary Agha Hassan condemned the move. The opposition party warns that the government was making an irreparable mistake in handing over a section of the park which puts the interest of the people of Balochistan at stake.

Politicians are not the only ones who are opposed to the move. Balochistan’s Forest Department has also opposed the move.

A senior official of the department says the forest cover in the province stands at a mere four per cent of the total land, as opposed to the stipulated 25 per cent. Talking to The Express Tribune, the official said prolonged drought in the province has already accelerated the pace of deforestation.

Over 50 per cent of the land dedicated to forestation by the British colonial power has been encroached upon with leaders grossly insensitive to its implications.

“It [handing over the land to Suparco] is insane and could damage the environment,” warns head of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Faiz Kakar. “We have to work on increasing the forest cover areas rather than depleting it.”

Opposing the move, Kakar says the park is a national asset and that the government should allocate an alternative area. Around 407,724 acres (1,650 square kilometres) of the Hingol forest was declared a national reserve in 1988 to protect its natural landscape and a host of flora and fauna.



Dawn, November 21st, 2015


POSSIBLY the most dangerous space in Pakistan lies between the Punjab chief minister and a pet project.

The head of archaeology learned this the hard way when he was moved from his post overnight for refusing to issue an NOC for the Orange Line train project for contravening the Antiquities Act that prohibits construction within 200 feet (61 metres) of protected historical monuments. His successor issued one within 24 hours.

Deaf to arguments as he bulldozes his way over objections, Shahbaz Sharif is convinced that he knows better than all the experts who oppose him. As an example, take the ongoing controversy over his Orange Line project that is set to destroy and diminish much of Lahore’s rich heritage, as well as displace tens of thousands.

According to an article by Moazzam Husain on these pages recently, the Punjab government is getting a loan of $1.6 billion from China for a Chinese consortium to build a 27-kilometre-long train line that cuts across some of Lahore’s most historical and crowded areas. Servicing and repaying this loan will come to $300,000 a day over 20 years. To generate this amount, passengers will have to pay Rs160 per journey, assuming all trains are full. Anything less will mean a subsidy that the taxpayers will have to fork out.

Does Lahore really need this train? Not on the evidence provided to me recently by Lahore’s well-known architect and planner, Kamil Khan Mumtaz. Apparently, out of the million or so of Lahore’s daily journeys to school, shops and work, 60pc are on foot, and 30pc are on bicycles and motorbikes. All these journeys take 20-30 minutes, and are within 2km to 5km.

The city’s topography, demographics and economics do not call for a train to solve Lahore’s traffic problems. This is a low-rise, low-income city with dispersed business districts that would be far better served by buses travelling along reserved lanes, as they do in many other cities. Clearing footpaths of encroachments would make it easier to walk to one’s destination.

The experience of other low-income, low-density cities is not encouraging. Mexico City’s 201km metro network accounts for only 14pc of all daily trips. In Kolkata, only 10pc of all trips are on the city’s 17km of railway track. And while Shanghai is hardly a low-income city, its 82km network of metro and overland trains accounts for just 2pc of the city’s traffic.

According to traffic experts, rail is the worst possible solution for Lahore’s needs. Apart from the swathe of desolation that will follow in the wake of the tracks, their present alignment will serve very few of Lahore’s residents. And among the many historical sites the project will blight are the Shalamar Gardens, the jewel in Lahore’s crown.

Although we are assured by Shahbaz Sharif that the tracks will skirt around the walls of the Gardens, vibrations from the train as well as the construction machinery will surely damage the foundations. And who wants to see ugly raised iron tracks next to one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture? Only a little over a kilometre of the tracks will travel underground. Taking them all below the surface, despite the cost, would at least minimise the vandalism.

Then there is the human tragedy of thousands of residents being thrown out of their homes to make way for the chief minister’s dream. Entire communities are up in arms to protect their homes and their places of work. They are being supported by a few activists and environmentalists to whom their city is very dear, but thus far, they are fighting a losing battle.

Just as we build cities, they shape us in subtle ways. A green, gracious city is conducive to civilised behaviour. And generations of residents have taken pride in their city full of Mughal and colonial architectural treasures. I have spent many years there, and have wonderful friends and happy memories.

However, whenever I visit Lahore now, I see many changes, not always for the better. And unsurprisingly, ugly shopping plazas are breeding like rabbits.

The world over, there is tension between the requirements of growing cities and the need to preserve the past. But if done with care and sensitivity, these two can be reconciled. However, running a train through Lahore’s historic heart is not the way to preserve its charm.

Responding to an appeal from the group trying to block the project, Unesco has written to the government to insist that Shalamar Gardens, a World Heritage Site, is not disturbed in any way. Shahbaz Sharif has said he would be happy to get advice from their experts.

However, had he talked to local architects, planners and other stakeholders before unilaterally deciding the train’s trajectory, we would not be where we are. Going by the chief minister’s track record, it is doubtful if he will allow economic, social or environmental considerations to derail his Orange Line train.


The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2015.

LAHORE: A Lahore High Court bench on Friday stayed the acquisition of land for the Orange Line Metro Train project in a petition seeking court declaration of the project as illegal and unconstitutional.

Justice Shahid Karim referred the petition filed by four residents of Kapoorthala House to the LHC chief justice for constitution of a full bench to deal with the matter.

Amjad Hassan Bhatti and others submitted through their counsel, Azhar Siddique, that the land identified by the government for acquisition for the project included a plot where they had constructed their houses and had been living for several years now. They said more than 50 families would become homeless if the government went ahead with its plan of acquiring the land. They said the government had started acquiring land without fulfilling the legal requirements.

The petitioners’ counsel said that the protection of property was an integral provision of the Constitution. He said the government could not be allowed to violate his clients’ right to own property.

Further, Advocate Azhar Siddiqe said the government was diverting funds to the Orange Line project from other important projects including those for provision of clean drinking water and enhancement of graveyards, education and healthcare facilities. He also said the government could not be allowed to tamper with the city’s master plan, particularly plans for amenities like parks, open spaces and roads and preservation of heritage sites.

The counsel said that if implemented the project would cause damage to several heritage sites along the route. He said sections of the General Post Office (GPO) building, the Shalimar Gardens and the Chauburji monument could be affected during the construction of the train.

The counsel further said that under Section 12 of the Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA) of 1997, no infrastructure project could be initiated without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for it. He said to his knowledge the government had not carried out an EIA for the project. “If it has been carried out, it must have been done without mandatory public participation,” he said.

Further, the counsel said that the project had been initiated without fulfilling legal requirements.

The counsel requested the court to declare acquisition of land and execution of the project in violation of the PEPA 1997 and constitutional clauses on fundamental rights.

The court issued notice to the provincial government and the Lahore Development Authority and adjourned the hearing.


Dawn, November 10th, 2015


‘INTERIOR’ Sindh, referring to anything beyond Karachi and Hyderabad, is a caricature in the urban imaginary: the hinterland where landlords cruelly rule over their static dominions and kick their slaves for entertainment, while masses roiling in timeless subjugation vote for dead people in every election.

There is a debate over whether feudalism exists in Sindh or whether the term is now a catchphrase for the rural elite’s exploitation and impunity. Despite the presence and strengthening of landlords, here’s a telegram from Sindh: feudal power is over.

The landed elite did not evolve out of the economic or social imperatives of the province but in the service of broader regime requirements. There are four distinct waves in the creation of zamindars in Sindh. The first was a product of colonialism, where landholding revenue collectors were declared cultivators, and gifted land ownership in exchange for services for the empire.

The second set emerged after the construction of irrigation infrastructure starting from the Jamrao Canal to the Sukkur barrage in the 1930s where land was allocated to retired army men, civil servants and to settler cultivators.

The third wave that saw the strengthening of zamindars was during Gen Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship where small owners, indebted feudals and non-cultivators were granted land and allowed to keep armed militias in lieu of support for the regime and opposing the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy.

The fourth wave was during Gen Musharraf’s regime where local contests for power were erased through an equilibrium carved by the local bodies system, delineating niches for each.

Zamindars at different historical junctures had a transactional relationship with ruling regimes. They had an autonomous power base because of their role in the rural economy, wealth, prestige, the ability to implement decisions and the deference of locals. In return for patronage of gifts, titles and concessions, they promised delivery of land revenues, power and a workforce to get decisions executed, control of the rural population, and after the colonial exit, they guaranteed votes for elections.

Now, they pay little agricultural tax, cannot independently get their decisions executed, have no control over the immense social changes in the province; face protests and dissent and have periodically been defeated in elections.

Most zamindars, pirs and gaddi nashins have at some point lost in their home constituencies, voted out by those accused of blind slavery. The 1988 election was Sindh’s referendum against feudalism and witnessed some legendary defeats of feudal lords and tribal chiefs: Pir Pagara, Sardar Sultan Chandio, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Sardar Mahar, Nazar Shah were all defeated by middle-class PPP candidates, though they went on to become the new exploitative elite themselves.

But the landed elite no longer have a power base distinct from that of the state. They pilfer state power or refract it onto themselves. Even landlords holding large contiguous tracts of land (keti) have little ability to get decisions executed without utilising state institutions.

Whether using police to get people roughed up or ‘intiqaami karwai’ (revenge through registering fake legal cases) or getting FIRs quashed, making bureaucrats endorse a faislo or jirga in their favour, initiating development projects etc, it all requires access to officialdom. Local bureaucracies are subject to transfer/postings because landed elites fight for officers of their choice, often giving positions to bidders on one-year leases.

The landlord’s economic base is no longer exclusively tied to landholding. Now their presence and influence is there in the capillaries of the state, the petrol pumps, permits, real estate dealings and money from transfer/posting bids. Others have changed their mode of operation — they no longer oppose schooling and education and try to ensure service delivery in their areas to get benefits for constituents even though that means lessening dependence on land-based livelihoods, albeit through systemic distortions.

The state is no longer peripheral. It is an intrinsic need in people’s lives, and they turn to the elites as a conduit. But the internal logic sustaining feudalism has ruptured; feudal culture exists without a feudal economic base and without feudal power.

The culture is also unravelling. Landlords used to field dalit labourers as candidates to insult their opponents who were contesting elections. Now they are including them in their own local panels. The rising number of court cases filed signal that the mechanism of landlord arbitration of conflicts is breaking down. Broadcast media has created awareness that transcends literacy boundaries. There are numerous indicators of social change. But state institutions are the impediment, not the catalyst.


Dawn, November 11th, 2015

LAHORE: Land acquisition for the Orange Line Metro Train Project will not only disturb routine life of a number of residents, but also result in loss of infrastructure, commercial and cultural activities and a change in land use.

A total of 1,165 kanal and 15 marla is being acquired for the metro train’s 26 stations, including two underground. The acquisition also includes 731 kanal to access a depot, stabling yard and electric sub-stations that will be constructed to provide uninterrupted power supply for continuous operations on the track.

According to the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, which was discussed in a public hearing on June 30, construction of the project will require land to be acquired in various parts of the city.

“The land acquisition will result in loss of infrastructure, commercial activities, disturb people and alter existing land use,” the report reads.

Though the report mentions compensation to affectees in exchange for their property, structures, plots, a majority of participants in the public hearing had sought compensation as per market rate of the properties besides structure and disturbance cost. It finally forced the government to accept demands of those whose properties would be acquired.

According to District Price Assessment Committee of the City District Government of Lahore, a number of private properties would be acquired near the planned train stations in Dera Gujran, Islam Park, Salamatpura, Mahmood Booti, Shalamar Gardens, Baghbanpura, University of Engineering and Technology (G.T. Road), Sultanpura, railway station, Lahore Hotel, Lakshmi Chowk, Hall Road, Anarkali, Chauburji, LOS, Gulshan-i-Ravi, Samanabad, Yateem Khana Chowk, Scheme Morr, Shahnoor, Sabzazaar, Kharak, Awan Town, Wahdat Road (near Mansoora), Mansoora, Hanjarwal, Canal View, Thokar Niaz Baig and Ali Town.

The ongoing construction will also have environmental impacts on civic life through possible soil erosion, contamination on roadside and for those engaged in the construction.

“Excavation of earth, clearing of vegetation and land levelling during construction will have an environmental impact on the people. This impact can be limited by keeping excavations confined to specified foundation spots as per the approved engineering drawings,” the EIA report explains.

“We cannot sleep well since we heard about acquisition of my and a number of others’ houses in the Katchi Abadi within the Railway Colony,” Ijaz, a resident, told Dawn on Friday.

As many as 40 houses in this locality have been marked for acquisition for the metro train’s elevated track. He said though they protested in front of the Lahore Press Club a few days ago, but none of the government officials bothered to listen to them.

“We have decided to save our house as well as our routine business, gatherings and culture by all means. And if the government does not change the route, which can save our houses and routine life, we will not allow construction work here,” he warned.