Civilians can own inherited property in Cantonment

RAWALPINDI, Aug 29: Civilian residents of the city Cantonment can, at long last, look forward to owning the properties their ancestors had built on leased land in the 19th century.

On Wednesday, the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board (RCB) formed a three-member committee to simplify the legal procedures that the inheritors of the properties found too fastidious to get the properties transferred in their names.

An announcement by the RCB said the move would facilitate the “regularisation of the property (standing) on Old Grant lease into commercial units” and asked the holders of the more than 3,000 of such properties to do that by December 31, 2012. It recalled that the Military Lands and Cantonments’ Old Grants lease policy provided people the opportunity to establish legal ownership of their property within cantonments on rational terms and conditions.

It was in 1857 that the British colonial rulers invited civilians to construct shops and residences in the Rawalpindi cantonment to provide civic services to soldiers. They were allowed to construct buildings but the ownership of the land granted to them remained with the British government.

After the creation of Pakistan, some changes were made in the lease terms, which put “the old grant properties” in the hands of the government. That created unrest among the inheritors of the properties.

In 1996, the federal government decided to convert the old grant lease into permanent lease and the Cantonment Board authorised the holders of the properties to further develop them. Most of them converted their properties in and around Saddar, The Mall, Tench Bhata, Lal Kurti and Royal Artillery Bazaar into commercial units and the Board collected millions of rupees in taxes from them.

However, only a few of lessees applied for regularisation of their old grants because of the red-tape and high fee that the board charged for that.

The committee now formed to simplify the procedure comprising RCB member and former RCCI President Rauf Chaudhry, Brigadier (Retired) Mohammad Jabbar and RCB Additional Cantonment Executive Officer Shakeel Anwar Jappa.

The committee is tasked to persuade and help the old grant lease holders to regularise their properties in accordance with the Board’s rules and regulations.

Under the new policy, the Military Land and Cantonments will charge Rs500 to Rs1,000 per square-yard for commercial and Rs250 to Rs500 per square-yard for residential plots as development charges. It will collect premiums at District Controller rates of the property if the person applied for transfer of the land in his name. However, premium for residential properties measuring less than five marla will be given special concession.RCB Cantonment Executive Officer Rana Manzoor Ahmed Khan told Dawn that the old grant policy would benefit most the traders who converted their old grant lease into commercial units.

“The government can cancel old grant lease any time but after the regularisation, the lessee will have the right to use the land for next 200 years without renewal of the lease,” he said.

Mr Khan said the Board also approved Rs70 million worth of new development schemes in the different areas of the cantonment, including construction of roads and laying water supply lines.