Prime land lost to encroachers

ISLAMABAD, Sept 29: Encroachers have a field day as the Capital Development Authority continues to look the other way. The latest site to have fallen to the menace is the area around the Maragalla police station estimated to be worth Rs5 billion.

“The authority is losing land in different proportions close to Margalla Railway Station,” a senior-ranking official of the authority told Dawn on the basis of anonymity.

“Obviously, the Pakistan Railways is involved,” accused the official.

According to him, the Margalla Railway Station was established in 1979 and the land was leased to Pakistan Railways to lay the rail track (also called leased right of way).

“The railway station was again opened in 1988 but only for freight services,” added the official.

He opined that two decades later, the encroachment by Pakistan Railways right under the nose of the CDA management was intriguing.

A visit to the site revealed that tractors were working to level the open field adjacent to the railway station while steel structures had been erected by labourers.A source in Pakistan Railways added: “The station is spread over an area of 13.5 acres.

Right of way for the rail track was also given to the Pakistan Railways but it is not allowed to lease this land to any other party since a second lease is illegal under the government’s land laws.”

The source maintained: “If the encroachment continues at its current pace, the CDA will lose land on both sides of the rail track.”

While the PR spokesman was not available to comment, the CDA spokesman Masoodur Rehman admitted that the land had been encroached.“I spoke to the Urban Planning Wing and the officials there confirmed that encroachments were going on at the Margalla Railway Station’s prime land,” he said, and then added, “Don’t worry the encroachment will be removed soon.”

A day later, a senior-ranking officer of the Enforcement Division contacted Dawn to give his input after being asked by the media division of the CDA.

“Where is this site since I can’t find it and there are no solid structures,” he claimed, and then passed the buck to the environment wing.

“The environment wing is supposed to look into this mess and not us as they have the mandate to block such developments,” he insisted.

Despite multiple attempts, chairman of Pakistan Railways, federal minister for railways and CDA chairman Farkhand Iqbal were not available to comment on the issue.