ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court wants the authorities concerned to develop a strategy to discourage settlements in border areas by declaring a buffer zone similar to what India has done.
“Border areas are always very sensitive and allowing people to live in settlements near the border can compromise the country’s interest and also encourage smuggling and infiltration etc,” observed acting Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Wednesday.
According to a Nasir Iqbal’s report for ‘Dawn’, the acting chief justice heading a three-judge bench was hearing a set of land disputes due to cancellation of plots allotted to the people in the border area for want of no-objection certificates.
The disputed lands were situated within a radius of five miles from the border. The central government framed a scheme in 1961 namely Scheme for Determination of Price, Terms and Conditions for the Allotment of Land under Martial Law Regulation-9, Zone B. The stated purpose and theme of the allotments was to make a first line of defence in the border area by means of permanent settlement of serving and retired army personnel.
The areas are situated from Shakargarh to Bahawalpur and the court was told by a number of appellants that though the area was eight kilometres in width, it runs thousands of kilometres adjacent to the border area between Pakistan and India.
During the hearing the acting chief justice recalled how India had declared its border area a buffer zone for security reasons where nobody can live.
While pointing towards Attorney General Anwar Mansoor, the acting chief justice observed that Pakistan should also declare areas within the radius of one to two kilometres from the border as buffer zone.
The AG, however, replied that Pakistan was a very small country compared to India but assured the court that he would talk to the quarters concerned in this regard.
The acting chief justice then made it clear that nobody had the right to live in border areas and the government could take over such lands any time.
Justice Gulzar asked the appellants what they would do if war broke out between Pakistan and India.
One of the appellants told the court that he was a retired army officer who had been allotted the land near the border area and that border regulations did not apply to people like him. Recalling his placement during the 1965 and 1971 wars, he said he would defend his country in case of Indian aggression. The acting chief justice observed that it was the domain of the armed forces to defend the country.
Later, the court dictated in a consent order that all the private parties, which had not obtained NOCs from the relevant authorities, agreed that they would have no objection if the Border Area Committee (BAC) extended them an opportunity to examine their case for the grant of NOC.