Railway’s efforts to retrieve occupied land not bearing fruit
* Only 245 acres recovered so far from 1,391 acres
By Khawaja Naseer
LAHORE: During the last five years, land mafia has grabbed 1,391 acres of commercial, residential and agricultural land belonging to Pakistan Railways (PR) in Lahore, PR sources told Daily Times on Thursday.
Sources in PR Property and Land (PL) wing said that the PR land, estimated to be worth more than several billion rupees, was now in the hands of influential people who had founded slums on them. “Despite valiant efforts, PR has only managed to take back 245 acres of land,” they said.
“Of the total occupied land, 49 acres is commercial, 982 is residential and 360 is agricultural,” they said. Most of the land, they said, had been grabbed near the Lahore Railway Station, Lahore Cantt station, Copper Store and alongside the University of Engineering and Technology and the Badami Bagh station.
Sources said that despite repeated attempts by top PR management, the railways had only managed to wrestle 14 acres of commercial, 77 acres of residential and 154 of acres agricultural land from the powerful mafia that occupied them.
Highly placed sources in PR further revealed that besides efforts to repossess mafia-held land, the railways was also struggling to settle the policy on land occupation with all four provincial governments.
They said that the Sindh government was seriously considering a proposal by the top PR management to divide PR-owned land between the railways (60 percent) and the provincial governments (40 percent).
Interestingly, in the absence of a clear policy, the authority had given the possession of its land to slums on the advice of the provincial governments. Sources said that the governments had advised that settlements established before 1985 be given ownership rights while those founded later be evicted.
Commenting on the PR-land grabbing fiasco, the inspector general of Railways Police, Ahmad Naseem, said that it was proving difficult to recover possessed land because land grabbers were being backed by influential people.
He said that authorities were working on the problem and soon a comprehensive policy would be formulated and recovery of held land would begin. Naseem said that people took possession illegally and then lodged cases in courts, leading to several-year-long litigations.