PESHAWAR: Located outside the posh Hayatabad Township on main Khyber Road, the 2943 canal Kacha Garhi Camp land is being converted into a prized commercial real estate in keeping with the current boom in land grabbing spree in Pakistan. The Pakistan Army has installed several signboards at the site, claiming land ownership and warning people to stay away from it. A training site for the military, efforts are afoot to launch yet another housing scheme on this precious land.
Being a prized location it would fetch huge dividends for the sponsors of the housing project. Heavy machines were seen recently leveling the ground on the site, implying that the work had been set in motion. City Development and Municipal Department Director General Jan Ali and District Nazim Peshawar Ghulam Ali have both declined to offer comment. Obviously Big Corporate Business of which the Pakistan Army a major stakeholder, is calling the shots. Both the above departments are allegedly "hand in glove" in the broad daylight robbery of public property.
The government bulldozed the settlements last year after the repatriation of the Afghan refugees. The recently fixed signboards at the precious site by the Pakistan Army are baffling, as the land was earlier planned for recreational facilities for the nature starved public. False reports were circulated that the provincial government planned to establish a zoo on the site once the camp was vacated by the refugees. However, it appears that Peshawarites would be deprived of a recreation facility promised by the government in the past.
"Linking the emerging Regi Lalma Township and Ring road to the main Khyber road is obviously a strategic real estate land worth billions of rupees. Basically, a shamilaat of Thehkal area, a Kashmiri real estate owner had bought the land from the owners, and has even won the case in the Supreme Court, but the military is using underhand tactics to brow beat the man. Like the rest of Pakistan which is under the danda (stick) of the military, this place is no exception!" asserts Sangeen Wali Khan.
Having destroyed the natural environs of the once serene and tranquil Peshawar Cantonment, the Pakistan Military is now transgressing on purely public property outside its legal and official boundaries. As Saddar is virtually under siege of the military on security grounds, the military cannot hold the entire city and the province hostage grabbing one land after another. Sarhad Conservation Network calls upon the provincial government, the environmental experts, civil society to collectively oppose this blatant land grabbing spree of the military officials. Peshawarites desperately need a recreational space since their beloved city has turned into a concrete jungle. Will the civil society file a public interest suit against this blatant transgression on their civil rights?