CHINIOT-The District Revenue Department claimed to have retrieved 575 acres of land state land worth Rs2 billion from illegal occupation of tenants who had occupied the land upon lapse of 18 years lease.

According to officials that Matloob Shah and Wajid Ali Shah, resident of Chak 158/JB had got 575 acres of agriculture land on 20 years lease from the Punjab government in 1960 under livestock breeding scheme 1960. The lease, however, expired in 1980 and the lessees managed to get it extended for another 10, 10 years till 1990 and 2000. Later, the Revenue Department refused to extend the lease for further period but neither the occupants did vacate state land, nor the administration bothered to get it vacated. However, the Punjab Board of Revenue issued a letter no.772-2005/2177 dated 18-7-2005 to all the EDOs revenue in Punjab, stating that “the policy for grant of proprietary rights to occupants is under consideration so they may not be disturb till the decision of policy”.

However, contrary to that the Board of Revenue wrote another letter dated 20-08-2010 to District officers revenue, stating that “ the lease had been expired since 30-6-2000 and is not extended” and directed them to recover the outstanding rent and get the land vacated with a compliance report to be submitted within 7 days.

However, the influential occupants Muhammad Ali Gillani and Asad Ali Shah, sons of deceased ex-lessees who had formed agriculture farms on the land refused to vacate land.

After a long judicial proceedings, the two members Supreme Court bench headed by then Justice Saqib Nisar and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood dismissed their petition on 29-3-2016, stating that the land was in unauthorized possession and the discretion of LHC under article 199 and Supreme Court under 185 is not available for protection of possession to people who were “usurpers” of the state property.

Following the verdict, the Revenue Department tried to vacate the land on April 2, 2016 but to no avail. The patwari submitted a false report to high-ups, stating that occupation has been resumed. In April 2017, the Revenue Department again tried to get the land vacated but could not do so. However, they seized the wheat crop of the occupants worth Rs1.6 million.

The incumbent Chiniot Deputy Commissioner Rai Manzoor assumed charge of his office on April 18 and sought report from all tehsils administration regarding occupations on state land. Then, he along with heavy police contingent and the revenue department officials made successful operation and get the land vacated from the occupants. The department also seized wheat crop worth Rs10 million from the land. Currently the property has official value of Rs977,500,000 while its market price is double and amount to more than Rs2 billion.

DC Rai Manzoor informed that occupation of state land will not be tolerated. He recalled that he had retrieved 747 kanal of state land in prime locations of Faisalabad and Lahore worth Rs5.5 billion when he was secretary Punjab Cooperative Board for Liquidation.

Moreover, he also unearthed state properties worth Rs40 billion which were still occupied by illegal occupants during previous stunt.

District Bar Association President Fazal Kalru lauded the effort of the administration and demanded the Chief Justice of Pakistan take suo moto action against those who could not get it vacated for 18 years, causing losses of millions of rupees to the national exchequer. He also demanded retrieval of state land from illegal occupation in other parts of the province.