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April 24, 2021

LHC cancels 7,000 kanals of military land allotted to civilian officers

Top Story

April 24, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court has cancelled the allotment of almost 7,000 kanals of military land illegally allotted to 56 civil officers and directed the Senior Member Board of Revenue Punjab to resume the land within a period of two months and restore it to the concerned authority, the GHQ.

The allotments, made during General Musharraf’s tenure, were cancelled by the Shahbaz Sharif government in 2010 but the present Punjab chief minister had regularised them by approving the recommendation of a high-powered committee of army officers and the Board of Revenue. The committee had concluded that the allotment already made in favour of civil officers should be considered as a past and closed transaction.

The LHC in its recent order-- in the case of Ch Munir Ahmad vs Govt of Punjab etc -- ruled that the recommendations of the committee were virtually approved by the chief minister, who is not shown anywhere as “being competent under any provision of the Colonisation of Government Lands (Punjab) Act, 1912 to pass any order for the allotment of the valuable state land to any private ineligible individual or to validate a patent void order of his subordinate authority.”

According to the court order, the petitioner filed the constitutional petition with the assertion that the Government of Punjab had decided to allocate land measuring 30,000 acres for allotment to military personnel. Initially, the revenue hierarchy in the year 2006 placed land measuring 100,000 acres at the disposal of the GHQ for its onward allotment to military personnel, under the Army Welfare Scheme. From this land, some civil officials/officers of the Board of Revenue, colony department and irrigation department got allotted different chunks of state land in their own names.

According to the judgment, the secretary (colony), board of revenue, Punjab required district officer revenue Muzaffargarh to submit information of the state land measuring 30,000 acres.

After the receipt of the details of land from the revenue officers of the district concerned, the secretary (colonies-I), secretary to government of the Punjab, and colonies department issued a memorandum on November 28, 2006, whereby the earmarked available state land measuring 100,000 acres was placed at the disposal of GHQ for its onward allotment to military personnel under the Army Welfare Scheme. Land in district Muzaffargarh, Khanewal, Kasur, Bahawalnagar, Rajanpur and Layyah were reserved for allotment to the armed forces personnel. But in a blatant contravention of the policy notification, 56 civil officers of the revenue and colony department as well as those of the irrigation department got allotted different chunks of land.

Later, the DC Bahawalpur transmitted a complaint to the Board of Revenue, Punjab who vide letter No.620-2010/357-C-IV dated 22.03.2010 cancelled the allotments of state land to the civil officers. The order of cancellation had never been reversed by any competent forum.

From a perusal of the record of the allotment, the LHC order said “it transpires that none of the allottees is shown to be an ex- or present armed forces personnel or the legal heirs of a martyr. It can conveniently be observed that allotments of state land were obtained by the private respondents through collusivity, misrepresentation of true facts as well as by brazen fraud with the state property.

“Admittedly the land was reserved for army personnel under the Army Welfare Scheme and it could not be allotted to any civil officer/official. Unfortunately, some of the revenue officers (DDOR & DOR) also got allotments of the land in their own name in violation of the said scheme as well as in contravention of the letter dated 22.03.2010 of the Member Board of Revenue which constitutes a brazen fraud with settled objectives of the scheme. It is painful but appropriate to comment on these farcical transactions as ‘to make hay while the sun shines’,” reads the judgment.

Referring to the chief minister’s order, the court ruled that the allotments in favour of the civil officials are hereby declared as null and void for being obtained in violation of the Army Welfare Scheme, and as such, they are accordingly set aside.

“The Senior Member Board of Revenue is directed to resume the said land within a period of two months and restore it to the concerned authority of GHQ under intimation of this court through its Deputy Registrar (Judicial). The Senior Member Board of Revenue shall also look into the allotments of state land obtained by different persons, mentioned in paragraph No.10 of this judgment, and proceed with the matter in accordance with law. The office is also directed to transmit a copy of this order to the Senior Member Board of Revenue through fax as well as by ordinary mode.”

Those hit by the LHC order include four senior officers of the Pakistan administrative service (formerly DMG), including Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera, present cabinet secretary, who was allotted 200 kanals of land from military lands in village Zakhera in Khanewal district.

Other senior DMG officers whose land allotment has been cancelled are Dr Faisal Zahoor, presently special secretary education Punjab; Syed Imtiaz Shah, presently provincial secretary in KP; and the then member colonies Tariq Yousaf, now retired, who had also alllotted himself 200 kanals of military land.

Most of the other officers belong to the provincial management service and are holding important positions in the present Punjab set-up. It is said that the DC rate evaluation of the 7,000 kanals military land, illegality allotted to civil officers, is around Rs 2.5 billion while the market price is over Rs 5 billion.