Saturday October 01, 2022

Land settlement in Chitral: PHC bars KP govt from concluding decision

By Bureau report
July 07, 2022

PESHAWAR: A two-member bench of Peshawar High Court (PHC) comprising Justice Muhammad Ibrahim Khan and Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim on Wednesday ordered to continue the land settlement in Chitral while restraining the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government from taking a final decision in this regard and adjourned hearing till August 2.

The petition was filed by residents of Chitral through which they challenged the mode and manner in which land settlement was being carried out in the districts of Upper Chitral and Lower Chitral as per notification dating back to 1975.

Barrister Asad-ul-Mulk appeared before the bench for the petitioners while Additional Advocate General (ADG) Muhammad Sohail represented the government.

The AAG stated the government had spent over Rs35 billion on the settlement process of Chitral, and the petition had challenged the vires of the process.

He contended that in case the petition was allowed and rectification of the settlement record ordered, this would have grave financial consequences for the government.

The advocate general, he submitted, was unavailable owing to exigent circumstances, but wanted to plead the case himself on behalf of the government and hence the case may accordingly be adjourned.

The 1975 Notification issued in the wake of the Chitral Land Dispute Enquiry Commission’s report declares all “mountains”, “waste-lands”, “barren-lands” and “pastures” to be property of the provincial government without defining these terms or demarcating these areas.

In reliance upon the notification, 97 percent of the land mass of Chitral has been entered in the name of the provincial government in the settlement records.

Barrister Asad-ul-Mulk representing the petitioners stated that in case of adjournment, the provincial government may be ordered to un-impound Chitral’s land settlement record, and continue with the process of land settlement and be restrained from concluding the process.

Barrister Asad-ul-Mulk stated that on the previous hearing, the PHC had benevolently ordered the settlement record of Chitral to be impounded by the Lower Chitral deputy commissioner.

He said since the impounding of the record was of no benefit to the petitioners, the order of impounding may be recalled and substituted with a direction to the settlement office to continue entertaining the applications for rectification already lodged with the settlement office by Chitrali residents.

The counsel requested that a direction may be issued restraining the settlement office and provincial government from concluding the settlement process.

Justice Ibrahim Khan acceding to the request of the petitioners, dictated an order, recalling the court’s previous order directing the settlement record to be impounded and simultaneously directed the government to continue the settlement process and restrained it from concluding the same. It was observed by the court that when the allegation was that the title of 97 per cent of the land mass of two districts had been entered in the government’s name, then the court would necessarily look into the legality of the process.