ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday declared Navy’s golf course illegal and ordered the authorities concerned to take over it and seal Islamabad’s hilltop Monal Restaurant by close of business.
The order came during a hearing presided over by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah of a case related to the encroachments on the Margalla Hills National Park. Secretaries for the ministries of defence and interior, the chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), and the additional attorney general (AAG) were present during the hearing.
Justice Minallah said the national park’s land belonged to the state and no commercial activities could be carried out there. “No one can even cut the grass on the land; this land belongs to the state.” Justice Minallah, addressing the government officials, said that “lawlessness” was taking place and that the events taking place in Islamabad were “shocking”.
“Lawlessness is prevailing in Islamabad. The court continuously gives decisions and informs [officials],” Justice Minallah remarked. He ordered the CDA to take over the Margalla Greens Golf Club and directed the chief commissioner Islamabad to seal the Monal Restaurant. The court asked the defence secretary to ensure that the Navy golf course is handed over to the CDA, no such thing takes place that can cause embarrassment and bring shame. The court asked the government official to take action against those responsible for encroaching upon the lands.
“You had already admitted that the golf course was illegal,” he told the defence secretary. The court said that all the armed forces — army, navy, and air force — fall under the Ministry of Defence and they were not autonomous. Pakistan Navy encroached [upon the national park’s land]. This is inappropriate. This will not portray a good image of the armed forces in the eyes of the people.
“The armed forces should not be controversial; it is not in the public interest,” he said. Justice Minallah remarked that the court wanted people to look up to the armed forces. “The laws are equally applicable on all the armed forces.
“Did the navy seek permission from the CDA for construction? It (navy) might have security reservations,” he said, adding that relevant authorities should hear out the security concerns listed down by the defence secretary.
The court declared the military’s 8,000-acre claim on the national park’s land as illegal and asked the AAG on what grounds was the land allotted to the military. The court ordered the CDA and the chief commissioner to point out the national park lands. The court said the land should be given back to the state. “Only the elite benefit when there is lawlessness.”
The IHC also directed the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency to prepare assessment report pertaining to losses caused by illegal constructions and also instructed the district collector for early completion of demarcation of Margalla Hills National Park.
The IHC chief justice asked the secretary Ministry of Climate Change whether the ministry’s responsibility was just to launch tree plantation campaigns. The ministry itself had admitted the encroachments by the private people in national park, he observed.
Additional attorney general had adopted the stance that the ownership of the said land would remain with the federal government. The chief justice asked the secretary defence to conduct an inquiry and fix responsible for illegal construction of naval golf club.
The CDA chairman informed the court that his department had given notice for demolishing the naval sailing club on directions of the bench. He said the district collector was responsible for demarcation of national park, while Survey of Pakistan and deputy commissioner offices would assist it.
The CDA chairman said that changes were being introduced to the master plan of Islamabad after detailed deliberations. The court remarked that no one would dare to encroach on the government lands when the state institution would remove their possessions. The court asked how the Monal Restaurant was constructed, adding that Metropolitan Corporation should have not interfered in affairs of national park. The court remarked that after the 1960 Ordinance, 1400 square miles area belongs to the CDA, adding that the court would interpret many things in its judgment.