ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday ordered capital authorities to seal off today Monal Restaurant and take control of the Margalla Greens Golf Club built on encroached land, also declaring illegal the military’s claim to 8,000 acres of Margalla Hills National Park.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the order to Islamabad Capital Territory Chief Commissioner Amer Ali Ahmed while hearing a case related to encroachments in the national park. “This court will protect the wider public interest,” the judge said.
The climate change secretary, who was present during the hearing, called for Islamabad’s master plan to be made public.
Justice Minallah said all rules applied to the three wings of the armed forces and asked whether they were being implemented. He questioned whether the Pakistan Air Force had gotten approval from the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for the constructions it had carried out. “It is possible that they might have some security concerns,” he remarked.
The judge said the concerns of the defence secretary should also be heard and the law should be strictly implemented. “Seal Monal if its lease has ended,” Justice Minallah added.
Following the judge’s directives, CDA officials went to the restaurant to seal it.
The Environment Protection Agency was directed to submit a report on the damages caused by construction on the national park.
The IHC also ordered the CDA to take over the Margalla Greens Golf Club today.
“The defence secretary should inquire about the encroachments of the navy golf course [and] take action against those responsible,” Justice Minallah said.
The IHC directed the defence secretary to ensure the implementation of the court’s orders and make sure there was no illegal construction by the armed forces’ three wings.
“The defence secretary and chief commissioner should ensure that no complaints come to the court now,” Justice Minallah said.
On November 9, the IHC had blamed several authorities for being complacent about the destruction of Margalla Hills National Park and the wildlife sanctuary. The court had also ordered a survey to be carried out on the damage and a report to be submitted.
Declaring the Pakistan Navy’s sailing club and farmhouses constructed on the national park land illegal, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday ordered their demolition and issued directions to initiate criminal proceedings against former naval chief Zafar Mehmud Abbasi and other officials for approving the illegal constructions.
In a 45-page judgement, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah ordered the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to take over the naval farmhouses, saying that navy had “trespassed on the land situated on the embankment of Rawal Lake, and that too in a protected national park area”.
According to a Dawn report, it noted that the club building “shall not be regularized in any manner for having been illegally constructed in an ecologically sensitive area in violation of the mandatory provisions.”
The court also declared that the occupation of the land was “illegal, without lawful authority and jurisdiction”.
The navy has been ordered to cease all its activities on Rawal Lake and hand over the land to the Small Dams Organisation, while the court ordered the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board to restore the natural habitat in the lake’s surroundings.
The court also appointed environmental law expert Dr Pervaiz Hassan as a one-person Implementation Commission to give effect to the Environment Commission’s recommendations regarding Rawal Lake and to investigate the environmental damage caused.
In addition, the auditor general has been directed to “conduct a forensic audit of PN Farms and Sailing Club to ascertain the loss caused to the exchequer, which shall be recovered from the officers found responsible for committing illegalities in relation to the respective ventures.”
In its verdict, the court noted that “the engagement of the armed forces in an activity which is a transgression from the constitutional mandate e.g. undertaking commercial or real estate ventures etc. is definitely not in the public interest. Its coercive power, strength and discipline can only be used for the restricted functions prescribed under the Constitution rather than using these characteristics to enforce its will on the people that created it.”