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October 3, 2020

Amendments to Surveying and Mapping Act: Use of incorrect, unofficial Pak maps to earn five-year jail

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October 3, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has been empowered to appoint the Surveyor General of Pakistan, as per amendments incorporated in the Surveying and Mapping Act, 2014, which was recently passed by the joint session of Parliament.

Previously, this authority vested with the federal government. A number of amendments have transferred different powers and functions to the ‘concerned division’ (meaning the defence ministry) from the federal government.

After the amendment, Section 3(2) states that for efficient administration of the Survey of Pakistan, there shall be a Surveyor General of Pakistan, who shall be appointed by the prime minister and there shall be other officers and staff as may be appointed by the prime minister in the prescribed manner.

An insertion has been added to Section 20, which says any individual, firm, organization or department involved in printing, displaying, disseminating, using or circulating incorrect and unofficial versions of the map of Pakistan or any part of Pakistan in hard or digital form shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term which may extend up to five years or a fine of five millions rupees or both.

An addition has been made to Section 16 that says no one shall print, display, disseminate, use or circulate incorrect and unofficial versions of the map of Pakistan or any part of Pakistan in hard or digital form. All individuals, firms, organizations or departments shall get their maps vetted and cleared from the Survey of Pakistan before use, publication, dissemination or circulation.

An amendment in Section 16(2) says no classified maps and data shall be allowed to be used by foreign consultants, firms, organizations without prior written approval of the concerned division. Previously, this power was with the federal government.

Section 11(1) has also been changed. It now reads: “the Survey of Pakistan shall use, insert, print or publish maps of Pakistan or atlases, establish and adopt geodetic, vertical and gravimetric datum at the national level. This datum shall be adopted in all national activities of surveying and mapping, including those carried out by the armed forces of Pakistan and the Geological Survey of Pakistan”.

According to a modification in Section 2, the national coordinate system means a plane coordinate system as notified by the prime minister (earlier it was notified by the federal government).

A similar amendment has been made in Section 6, replacing the federal government with the prime minister. It says the Survey of Pakistan shall advise the prime minister on the practices to be followed in the production of geospatial data as well as surveying and mapping practices and as the case may be in the collection and dissemination of this kind of information needed for geographical information systems (GIS) applications.

The Survey of Pakistan will “prepare geospatial data, remote sensing and geographical information system applications of the entire country on various scales as advised by the prime minister and provide these services as a deposit work for a specific area with predefined specifications to the provincial, district and local governments and other clients from public as well as private sector”.

It will compile derived maps on various scales as required by the concerned division. It will perform such other functions as may be assigned by a “concerned division”.

Similarly, the words “federal government” have been replaced with the “concerned division” in Section 13, which deals with joint survey and mapping and geospatial data production work with foreign companies.

The original section said no work related to surveying and mapping, collection and production of geospatial data within Pakistan shall be undertaken by any individual, private firm or government organization in collaboration with any foreign company or firm or non-government organization unless prior written approval is obtained from the federal government, observing the requisite channels.

Likewise, after the amendment, Section 18 reads: “Nobody shall damage, destroy or remove any survey mark or seize or occupy the land used for permanent surveying marks. In case the marks are established on private property, compensation shall be paid by the ‘concerned division’ under the applicable law.”

On the same pattern, Section 19(1) has been changed. It says the ‘concerned division’ shall establish a National Naming Authority which shall consist of not more than ten members and shall be chaired by the Surveyor General of Pakistan.

An addition has been made to Section 3, which says the Survey of Pakistan shall be the technical department for all activities involving surveying, mapping, geographic information systems or remote sensing and geospatial information technologies in Pakistan.

In Section 23, the words ‘federal government’ were also substituted by the ‘concerned division’. The provision says the ‘concerned division’ may make rules for carrying out the purpose of this Act.