[Issued by Legal Parameter, office of Barrister Asad Ul Mulk].
The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday ordered the provincial government to un-impound Chitral’s land settlement record, continue with the process of land settlement but restrained it from concluding the same.
A divisional bench consisting of Justice Ibrahim Khan and Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim took up for hearing a petition filed by the inhabitants of Chitral wherein they have challenged the mode and manner of the ongoing land settlement in Chitral and a Notification dating back to 1975.
The 1975 Notification issued in the wake of the Chitral Land Dispute Enquiry Commission’s report declares all “mountains”, “waste-lands”, “barren-lands” and “pastures” to be property of the Provincial Government without defining these terms or demarcating these areas. In reliance upon the 1975 Notification 97% of the land mass of Chitral has been entered in the name of the Provincial Government in the settlement records.
At the previous hearing of the case on 17th May 2022 a divisional bench of the High Court consisting of Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Shakeel Ahmad had benevolently ordered that the settlement record be impounded by the Deputy Commissioner Lower Chitral and the record not tampered with.
Additional Advocate General Muhammad Suhail appeared on behalf of the Provincial Government and stated that the Advocate General Mr. Shumail Ahmad Butt himself wanted to argue the case as its outcome had grave cost consequences for the Government incase rectification was ordered as prayed for in the petition. He stated that however, the Advocate General could not be before the Court owing to exigent reasons and accordingly the case may be adjourned to another day on which the Advocate General would ensure his attendance.
Barrister Asad-ul-Mulk representing the petitioners, a multitude of whom had filled the Court stated that in the event of adjournment the previous orders of the High Court may be suitably modified. He requested that the Provincial Government may be ordered to un-impound Chitral’s land settlement record, continue with the process of land settlement and be restrained from concluding the process.
Also in attendance was Advocate MuhibullahTarichvi, Advocate Shahid Ali Khan and scores of affected residents of Chitral. It was stated by Barrister Asad-ul-Mulk that the Settlement Office had completely lost sight of the provisions related to “bona-vacantia” and “escheat” contained in the Constitution of Pakistan. He also stated that following the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan all Regulations issued in respect of the erstwhile Provincially Administered Tribal Areas of which Chitral was a part, have lapsed. Consequently the Distribution of Property Chitral Regulation 1974 has also lapsed and as a natural corollary the 1975 Notification which was issued with the ibid Regulation’s backing has also lapsed.
Justice Ibrahim Khan reproached the Government for delaying the case for one reason or the other, and modified the previous order of the High Courtin the petitioner’s favor. Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim observed that the registry of 97% of the land mass of two districts in the name of the Provincial Government was unfathomable and the Court was eager to look into the vires of the process which had led to such a result.
As a result of the High Court’s latest order the Deputy Commissioner will have to un-impound Chitral’s settlement record. The case was adjourned to 2nd August with direction to the parties to argue the case on the said date.