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Land encroachment case: PHC serves notice on chief secy, Malakand varsity VC

PESHAWAR, Aug 23: A Peshawar High Court (PHC) division bench on Wednesday served a notice on the NWFP chief secretary and University of Malakand (UoM) vice-chancellor in a land-encroachment case.

Admitting a writ petition by the NWFP Forest Development Corporation (FDC) for a preliminary hearing, the bench comprising Justice Muhammad Qaim Jan Khan and Justice Hamid Farooq Durrani directed both the respondents to submit their replies at the next hearing.

The petitioner said the NWFP FDC was a statutory body created under the NWFP Ordinance No-II of 1980, having a separate legal corporate personality with powers to acquire, hold and dispose a property.

On December 9, 1981, a high-level meeting was held in pursuance to the decision of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) for steps to be taken for mechanisation and industrialisation of forestry in the Frontier province.

"Accordingly, it was decided that Dir Forest Complex Industries, concerns of the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), having its units in Dir and Swat, along with its assets were to be transferred from PIDC to the petitioner," the petitioner said, adding that the transferred assets included an area of 50.8 acres at Sheringal, Dir. The petitioner also claimed to have paid sale consideration for the said transfer. Further, the petitioner said that on September 9, 2001, the NWFP governor received a request from the NWFP science, technology and information adviser on behalf of the University of Malakand for the transfer of property to establish a research centre. The initial request was made for 35 acres.

The petitioner declined to offer the property when the NWFP Environment Department sought comments, saying that the same was being used by it for its own multifarious activities and essential requirements. "However, the governor, without considering the clear objections of the petitioner, ordered transfer of the property to the University of Malakand for the establishment of the research centre," the petitioner added.

On February 15, 2002, the board of the corporation took up the issue and decided to prepare a self-contained summary for the governor for the review of the decision.

The corporation alleged that the University of Malakand, instead of establishing the research centre at the transferred part of the property, utilised the land to open a school named University Public School.

"To add insult to injury, the university leased the illegally occupied part of the property to private persons on rent," the petitioner alleged.

On August 3, 2005, the University Public School principal led his students and forcibly took over part of the corporation. The district administration remained a silent spectator to all this trespassing and encroachment, the petitioner said.

Finally, on January 5, 2006, the NWFP chief minister approved the proposal of the Environment Department, which states, "For management purposes, the area comprising the log-yard (depot) and machinery store will be retained by the FDC." But despite clear directives of the NWFP government, the university did not agree to comply with the terms, the petitioner said.

In interim relief, petitioner's counsel Yahya Afridi requested the court to direct the respondents not to "illegally" encroach on further property of his client, as well as to order the Upper Dir district government, district revenue officer and district police officer to ensure the safety of person and property of the petitioner until a final decision on the petition. Daily times
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