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EDITORIAL: It sure has taken its sweet time – two decades – but the apex court has finally expressed “shock” over “flagrant violations” of law committed in the acquisition of 2,830 kanals of agricultural land for a cooperative housing society in Rawalpindi in 2005.

Interestingly, the 3-judge bench headed by CJP Qazi Faez Isa seemed pretty surprised that the entire process of the merger of the land acquired to develop residential facilities for members of the Revenue Employees Cooperative Housing Society (RECHS) was also “replete with flagrant violations of existing laws”.

The agri land thus acquired by RECHS was later transferred to Bahria Town Ltd (BTL), of course, and then to Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in 2007 for development of Askari-14 in Rawalpindi. And stiff opposition and even a written statement by the then Punjab cooperatives minister, Malik Mohammad Anwar, could not stop these transactions and transfers because all objections were overruled by the then Punjab CM, Pervez Elahi – the same man who, after hopping in and out of alliances of all political shades and persuasions finally threw his lot with PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) and painted himself as a revolutionary of haqiqi azadi (real freedom).

Yet the fact that senior judges of the top court were so surprised by these trends goes to show that their isolation sometimes distances them from everyday reality. As such, the CJP’s revelations that a road trip to anywhere in the country would show a “network of societies spreading all over the place” and that “it seems everybody wants to make a housing society to enrich himself” were not exactly breaking news for much of the rest of the country. Perhaps these issues would have remained a mystery for their lordships if complaints moved by a number of people deprived of their plots despite making payments hadn’t reached the bench.

Now the court, wondering how agricultural land could be utilised for residential or commercial purposes, has directed BTL and DHA to furnish “concise statements” explaining the conversion, in addition to submitting the site plan and a Google map.

Sure enough, though, the bench will soon find that the magic ingredient that enables this change is the very common mix of greed and corruption, which makes it very easy to bend rules, steal land and make it all appear legal; even if it means compromising the country’s food basket itself in the long run.

Because that is what you’ll get if you keep taking agriculture land away and turning it into money-making residential complexes. You also constantly raise the value of real estate in this way, pricing it out of the reach of much of the country’s population.

There is much in this case to be sorted out, not the least to set a lasting precedent; one that would safeguard people’s savings – which are invested in homes – and the nation’s farmlands. These are no doubt policy matters that the government ought to have thought about a long time ago, as the CJP rightly pointed out, but, like he went on to say, “if the government does not do so, the court will ensure the government realises it’s time to start thinking about such matters”.

So it’s now up to the court to live up to its own claim.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Comments

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KU Mar 31, 2024 08:21am
Ours is a land of opportunity, should suffice. But the CJ is also a firm believer in non-interference in executive offices n parliament. What say about similar big boys cases in other cities?
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Sumru Mar 31, 2024 12:08pm
Full bench of SC should take care of this matter, failure to do so, will lead masses to hold courts on streets...and the outcome will be very ugly...
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Tin Pot General Mar 31, 2024 02:57pm
When the constitution is flagrantly brushed aside and these lordships close their eyes and ears and do nothing; what else can be expected. Corruption is the new normal and legitimised.
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Johny Apr 01, 2024 09:15am
@Tin Pot General, It will trigger a very messy civil war!
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E Apr 01, 2024 09:50am
Higher supply houseing means lower prices. Court seems to ignore this point, on purpose? Agree agriland SHOULDN'T used for housing societies. But rwp land NOT agriculture without large qty agri input
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Love Your Country Apr 02, 2024 02:30pm
@Tin Pot General, .... close eyes; what do you mean? It's justified and approved, a road map is provided for future too.
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Love Your Country Apr 02, 2024 02:40pm
PElahi didn't go to PTI to help bring about the change; he went to make hay while the sun shines. The change will, if it ever, come through a group of people with entirely different set of qualities.
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