Declaring the Pakistan Navys sailing club and farmhouses constructed on the national park land illegal, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued directions to initiate criminal proceedings against former naval chief Zafar Mehmud Abbasi and other officials for approving the illegal constructions, Dawn reported.
In a 45-page judgement, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah ordered the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to take over the naval farmhouses, saying that navy had “trespassed on the land situated on the embankment of Rawal Lake, and that too in a protected national park area”.
The court termed it an irony of fate that “the chief of naval staff and one of the branches of the armed forces i.e. the Pakistan Navy were involved in violating the enforced laws and transgressions from the mandate prescribed under the supreme law of the country, the Constitution”.
“The most disturbing factor was the conflict created by one of the branches of the Armed Forces with the society and its citizens. Any such conflict is intolerable in a society governed under the Constitution,” Dawn news quoted the court order as saying.
The verdict also singles out Abbasi, saying that he “violated his oath and transgressed his constitutional duty by inaugurating an illegal building on encroached land in violation of the Act of 1997 and the Ordinance of 1960… (Admiral Abbasi and) other officers involved in the illegal construction and inauguration of the sailing club have made themselves liable to criminal proceedings”.
The order directed competent authorities to ensure that criminal proceedings are initiated against them forthwith, saying: “The federal government shall proceed against Admiral Abbasi under the Ordinance of 1961 for acts and omissions amounting to misconduct on his part.”
In its verdict, the court noted that “the engagement of the armed forces in an activity which is a transgression from the constitutional mandate e.g. undertaking commercial or real estate ventures etc. is definitely not in the public interest. Its coercive power, strength and discipline can only be used for the restricted functions prescribed under the Constitution rather than using these characteristics to enforce its will on the people that created it”, Dawn news reported.
“Engaging in such undertakings, on the one hand, compromises the professionalism, integrity, cohesion of the Armed Forces while on the other it weakens the civilian institutions and becomes a cause for distraction from the core function. It damages the relationship of the Armed Forces with the people and the society,” the verdict noted.
In the verdict, the IHC Chief Justice noted that the two ventures, PN Farms and the PN Sailing Club were directly or indirectly undertaken by the navy illegally and executed in violation of the enforced law.
“The Secretary, Cabinet Division shall place the copies of this judgment before the worthy Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet i.e. the Federal Government. The latter shall take measures for ensuring restoration of rule of law and strict implementation of the enforced laws within the 1400 square mile area of the Islamabad Capital Territory.” the court order stated.
The court also declared that the occupation of the land was “illegal, without lawful authority and jurisdiction”.
The navy has been ordered to cease all its activities on Rawal Lake and hand over the land to the Small Dams Organisation, while the court ordered the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board to restore the natural habitat in the lake’s surroundings.