ISLAMABAD-The Islamabad High Court has expressed its concerns over allocation of Argentina Park land for the extension of Polyclinic hospital, declaring the step as illegal without lawful authority and jurisdiction.

In this matter, a single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah Friday announced its reserved verdict on the petition of Yasmin Haider against the conversion of Argentine Park for the extension of the Federal Government Services Hospital (Poly Clinic Hospital).

The IHC Chief Justice in his judgment directed the federal government to restore the Argentine Park for the use of the general public. The federal government further directed to safeguard the historical and environment importance of the Argentine Park.

The bench ordered the CDA to consider on the basis of sound principles of town planning, other options for the expansion of the hospital or its relocation within the Islamabad Capital Territory. Land of Argentine Park cannot be put to any other use on the touchstone of the law enunciated by the Supreme Court in the case of Shehla Zia, said the judgment.

 Former Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on 15-01-2019 during the pendency of this case in IHC observed that all order passed in this petition, which may not have been in consonance with the law and did not fall within the purview of the case Shela Zia vs WAPDA would not be an impediment in the way of the extension and expansion of the hospital.

The ex-CJP, however, had directed the IHC for early disposal of the instant petition.

Justice Athar Minallah observed that Argentine Park is not just an open space used for recreational purposes. It has a historical importance because it is symbol of bond between the people of Argentine and Pakistan.

The verdict said that the conversion of 2.5 acres of area of Argentine Park for the extension of the hospital is definitely in violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Constitution, particularly under Article 9 besides being in violation of the Ordinance of 1960, the Act of 1997 and the regulations made under both the statues.

The IHC noted that instead of establishing more hospitals to serve the inhabitants of the federal capital, the federal government directed the Capital Development Authority to convert the use of its plot known as Argentine Park so that it could be used for the extension of the hospital.

It added that the authority, in this disregard of its statutory obligations, blindly accepted the dictation of the federal government and thus purportedly converted the category of the plot from a park to enable it to be use for construction of buildings as part of the extension of the hospital.

It further said that experts have classified Pakistan as a prime target of global warming. Unregulated human activities, particularly illegal construction and urban sprawl are prime causes of global warming, air pollution, water scarcity, loss of forests, extinction of agricultural land and wild life.

The bench observed that Islamabad Capital Territory already faces a serious water crisis and it would definitely be exacerbated if effective environmental management is not implemented on an urgent basis. In view of the critical situation regarding climate changes and environmental degradation, there is an urgent and greater need to protect and safeguard open spaces, play grounds and parks rather than converting them to building made from brick and mortar. Parks and urban green spaces have multiple benefits besides providing areas for recreation facilities.

It said that the decision to convert the use and purpose of 2.5 acres of Argentine Park for the extension of the hospital is ultra vires the Ordinance of 1960, the Act of 1997 and in blatant violation of the fundamental rights of the public guaranteed under the constitution.

The bench stated that Argentine Park could not have been converted for any other purpose let alone extension of the hospital. The decision was contrary to the principles and law enunciated by the apex court judgments.

The IHC noted that several laws, despite being on the statute books, are not being enforced.

The Master Plan, which had taken care of all the essential factors, particularly preservation of the landscape and protection of the environment, has been ruthlessly damaged and destroyed by the public functionaries entrusted with the onerous task to hold it as a trust on behalf of the people Pakistan.