January 13th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
The Navy Golf Course and Monal restaurant, ruled to have been constructed on encroached land of the Margallah Hill National Park, have been sealed on the orders of the Islamabad High Court, Daniyal Hassan counsel for the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board told Voicepk.net.
Hassan said the Islamabad High Court in its short order ruled that the golf course and the restaurant were built on encroached land of the MHNP sanctuary.
“The destruction of the (Margallah Hill) National Park is violative of the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan and saving it from further harm an inviolable duty of the State, its institutions and the public functionaries,” Chief Justice Athar Minallah wrote in his short order on January 11 while deciding a petition by academic Prof Zahid Baig Mirza that he had filed in 2014. Mirza had sought court direction against encroachments on land allocated to the Margallah Hill National Park under the master plan.
Handover of 8000 acres of park land illegal
Chief Justice Athar Minallah also ordered that the federal government’s handover of 8068 acres of land in the Margallah Hill National Park to the Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate of Pakistan Army violated the federal capital’s master plan and associated laws.
“The Federal Government was bereft of jurisdiction to allow the (Farms) Directorate to use 8068 acres of land in the notified National Park area. The Directorate has no jurisdiction nor the authority to own, use or keep in possession any land within the notified National Park area,” reads the IHC order.
Golf course to be demolished in 4 weeks
“The construction on the encroached land of Navy Golf Course shall be demolished within four weeks from the date of the order unless it can be utilized for an environmentally friendly activity,” reads the short order.
Hassan said the wildlife sanctuary and National Park was integral part of the federal capital’s master plan. “Greek architect Doxiadis who formulated Islamabad’s master plan foreseeing all future developments,” he said.
The Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Ordinance was promulgated in 1979 for the protection, preservation, conservation, and management of wildlife and setting up of a National park in the Islamabad Capital Territory, he explained.
The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board was set up on a court order in 2015 when the IHC heard petitions regarding the protection of the wildlife sanctuary, Hassan said.
Inquiry ordered against officials
The CDA is to hold an inquiry to identify the officials responsible for the construction of Monal Restaurant and other buildings in the park’s protected area and proceed against them.
The Ministry of Defence would also hold an inquiry to fix the responsibility of officials/persons involved in illegally establishing the Navy Golf Course.
According to the board’s counsel, encroachments carried out by private individuals in the national park would be also removed under the court order.
The order says the federal government, Capital Development Authority, and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board should jointly ensure that no further unauthorized activity, construction or acts in any other manner take place or are undertaken within the notified area of the national park, adding they would be held liable for any further destruction there.
The court directed that the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior, and the CDA should jointly conduct a survey and demarcate the unharmed area of the park within 60 days.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah appointed Dr Pervez Hassan as head of the implementation commission to oversee directives in the judgment. The court also made the report and recommendations of the Islamabad Environmental Commission, headed by Dr Pervez Hassan, as part of the judgment.
The Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change would coordinate with the chair of the Implementation Commission and place the recommendations before the prime minister and the federal cabinet for approval.
‘IHC verdict saved Islamabad’
Imrana Tiwana, noted environmentalist and member of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, called the IHC verdict a landmark in view of the preservation of the natural environment.
Tiwana said the IHC judgment was a point to ponder for the provincial governments in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa relating to the unbridled growth of cities there. “The IHC judgment has saved Islamabad from becoming another Lahore and Karachi,” she said.
Hailing Chief Justice Athar Minallah as a brave judge, Tiwana said the verdict has put Pakistan as a green leader across the world. “The judiciary in the country has always helped in redressing issues relating to environmental degradation and climate change,” she said.
“The COVID pandemic and climate change happened because humans could not manage their rapid urbanization,” she said. “The national parks and sanctuaries like Margalla Hill Park are the lungs of a country,” she explained.
Tiwana said unbridled land development should not come at the cost of human development and health as seen in megacities like Lahore and Karachi.