IHC orders demolition of Navy farmhouse, sailing club in capital

• Former Navy Chief among officers facing criminal proceedings
• Implementation Commission to Assess Environmental Damage
• Court says commercial, real estate ventures by armed forces ‘definitely not in public interest’

ISLAMABAD: Declaring Pakistan Navy’s yachting club and farmhouse built on national park land illegal, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday ordered their demolition and initiated criminal proceedings against former Navy chief Zafar Mahmood Abbasi and other officials. issued instructions. illegal construction.

In a 45-page decision, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah ordered the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to take over the Navy’s farmhouses, saying the Navy had “trespassed on land located on the embankment of Lake Rawal, and That too in a protected area in the National Park area”.

It noted that the club building “shall not be regularized in any way” for being illegally constructed in an ecologically sensitive area in contravention of the mandatory provisions.

The court also declared that the occupation of the land was “illegal, without lawful right and jurisdiction”.

The Navy has been ordered to stop all its activities on Lake Rawal and hand over the land to the small dam organization, while the court has ordered the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board to restore the natural habitat around the lake.

The court also appointed environmental law expert Dr Parvez Hasan as a one-man implementation commission to give effect to the recommendations of the Environment Commission with respect to the Rawal Lake and to investigate the environmental damage.

Further, 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 respect of the enterprises concerned.” ”

In its judgment, the court observed that “the participation of the armed forces in an activity that is in violation of the constitutional mandate such as carrying out commercial or immovable property ventures etc. is certainly not in the public interest. It has tremendous power, power and discipline.” It can be used only for the restricted functions prescribed under the Constitution and not to impose its will on the people who make it by using these features.”

“Involvement in such undertakings, on the one hand, compromises the professionalism, integrity, solidarity of the Armed Forces, while on the other hand it undermines the civil institutions and becomes a cause of distraction from the main task. damages the relations of the armed forces with the society,” the judgment said.

The judgment was issued in the year 2020 on a petition filed by a citizen against the construction of a navy club and the denial of citizens’ access to the lake.

The club was first sealed by the court in July 2020 after the CDA and the Navy failed to provide a reasonable justification for building such a structure on the side of a reservoir. However, later non-commercial activities were allowed in the facility.

In a written response in August 2020, former naval chief Zafar Mahmood Abbasi claimed that the Rawal Lakeside facility is “neither a club in the traditional sense nor a commercial enterprise”, maintaining that it There was a sports facility. After obtaining the approval of environmental experts, it is established on the instructions of the federal government.

In the judgment, the Chief Justice of IHC noted that the two ventures, PN Farms and PN Sailing Club, were directly or indirectly undertaken by the Navy illegally and were executed in contravention of applicable law. Criticizing the role of civic agencies such as the CDA and the Environmental Protection Agency, the decision said: “The relevant authorities and regulators have looked the other way and felt satisfied with issuing the notices only as a formality.”

“The Secretary, Cabinet Division shall place copies of this decision before the eligible Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, that is, the Federal Government. The latter will take measures to ensure restoration of the rule of law and strict implementation of applicable laws within the 1400 square miles area of ​​the Islamabad Capital Territory”, the court order said.

The court called it an irony of fate that “the Chief of the Naval Staff and one of the branches of the Armed Forces i.e. the Pakistan Navy was involved in violating applicable laws and violations of the mandate laid down under the highest law of the country, the Constitution”.

“The most disturbing factor was the conflict created by a branch of the armed forces with the society and its citizens. Any such conflict is intolerable in a society governed under the Constitution.

According to the judgment, “the execution of two undertakings, PN Farms and Sailing Club, is a classic example of the non-existence of the rule of law.”

Through the order, the court declared that the mutation of land in the name of an office of the Headquarters of the Pakistan Navy was unconstitutional, illegal and in violation of the law, adding that the ownership of the land would be disposed of by the federal government as prescribed under Article 173 of the Constitution. mandatory under

The Chief Justice of IHC also declared the No Objection Certificate (NOC) issued for construction within the land of Naval Headquarters illegal and directed the CDA to take over the land falling under the said NOC.

The verdict also alienated the then Navy chief, Admiral (retired) Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, saying he violated his oath and violated his constitutional duty by inaugurating an illegal building on encroached land in violation of the 1997 Act and Ordinance. Violated. 1960… [Admiral Abbasi and] Other officials involved in illegal construction and opening of Sailing Club have made themselves liable for criminal proceedings.”

The order directed the competent authorities to ensure that criminal proceedings are initiated against him immediately, “The federal government shall proceed against Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi for acts and omissions of misconduct amounting to by him under the 1961 Ordinance.”

Published in Dawn, January 8, 2022