Issue of military lands comes under focus in Senate
27 August, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The acquisition of private properties in the name of defence and national security, and then changing the use of the acquired land and refusing to pay compensation to the owners, came under sharp criticism in Senate on Monday on a motion moved by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, who urged the House to take up the issue of non-payment of compensation to decree holders of private land owners in Nowshera in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Admitting the motion for further discussion, the Senate chairman raised some questions and asked the government to furnish replies to solve the decades-old issue.
"If the government is sincere in addressing the issue and paying the rightful dues of the owners, it should allocate funds for payment instead of filing review petition unnecessarily," the chair said.
Talking about the issue, Farhatullah Babar said that more than 18,000 acres belonging to private owners had been acquired by the military decades ago in Nowshera, ostensibly for the purpose of using the land as a firing range. Several years after the acquisition, a compensation of Rs 88 per marla was announced, which was far below the market rate of the land at the time it was acquired.
The peanut award was challenged in the court, upon which the Peshawar High Court raised the compensation to Rs 1,500 per marla, and six percent simple interest to be paid to all victims.
The Defence Ministry, however, refused to pay, he said.
Babar said that in July last year, the Defence Committee of the Senate took up the matter on a complaint by the victims.
The Defence Ministry took the position that it had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the verdict of the PHC, and that the matter was sub-judice. This position was challenged on the ground that the SC had not granted any stay against the PHC order and that there was no question of a stay order, as it was already time barred.
In March this year, the committee expressed shock over the delay in settling this issue and called for urgent action for allocation of funds, either by the government or through some other internal adjustments, for payment of dues to the victims.
He said that no action was taken. "While the victims ran from pillar to post to get their right, orchards were grown on the land acquired in the name of national defence."
He said that in order to avoid further questioning by the Senate committee and create the fašade of a semblance of reason, the Defence Ministry appealed to the Peshawar High Court's decision in the SC long after the limitation period. However, the SC rejected the appeal being time barred.
He demanded that compensation must be paid to the victims of the AFV Ranges Nowsehra land in accordance with court verdicts. Senator Babar said that this was only one instance to demonstrate the need for looking into the management of military lands.
He also referred to another case in which the Defence Ministry's Cantonment Department cancelled the lease deed of victims of 25 plots allotted to them through open bidding in 1998 by the Punjab government.
People had made full payment for the plots situated near the site of the old jail in Rawalpindi, got the building plans approved and were also armed with a high court verdict that they be permitted to build houses, he said.
"However, the Cantonment Board authorities refused to let them build houses on grounds of national security." The chairman, however, did not allow discussion on it, saying that it was not part of the current motion and may be taken up separately by the mover.