Pakistan Railways has admitted that over 4,100 acres of its land, worth about Rs. 90 billion, is still under encroachment.
Punjab tops the list with 2,076 acres of land under encroachment, followed by Sindh with 1,159 acres, Balochistan 618 acres and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 250.9 acres. This was revealed by Railways Ministry officials while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Railways, which met with Syed Naveed Qamar in the chair.
Director Land and Property Arshad Salam Khattak briefed the committee members.
Railway land is under three types of encroachment: commercial, residential and agriculture. Besides these, there is land under unauthorized occupation of government departments which accounts for 540.668 acres. Defense departments encroached 251.23 acres land worth Rs. 6.6 billion.
Govt and defense departments are encroaching on land worth billions of rupees
Of the 107 acres of commercial land, 72 acres is in Balochistan, 31.53 acres in Sindh, 3.8 acres in Punjab. As for the 1,317 acres of residential land, 442 acres is encroached in Balochistan, 435 acres in Sindh, and 439 acres in Punjab. A total of 1,888 acres of encroached land falls under agriculture category, with 46 acres in Balochistan, 642 acres in Sindh, 11 acres in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while 1,188 acres in Punjab has been encroached or occupied.
Briefing the Committee on steps taken by the Ministry of Railways for the retrieval of land from illegal occupants, Director Land and Property stated that 3,698 acres of Pakistan Railways’ land worth Rs. 17.844 billion has been retrieved from illegal occupants since January 2012.
The committee was informed that Railways has a total of 167,690 acres land including 90,326 acres in Punjab, 39,428 acres in Sindh, 28,228 acres in Balochistan and 9,707 acres in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The committee was further informed that Railways has leased out 118 acres of land in 2013, 1,437 acres in 2014, 2,107 in 2015 and 2,683 acre land in 2016. Another 1,692 acres of land was regularized, including 1,255 acres in favour of Pakistan Army and 437 for the Rangers. On this, the committee chairman asked that under what policy is the land regularized and sought a detailed briefing on the matter in next meeting.
The committee was informed that a detailed survey was carried out, in the context of Suo Moto, to identify encroached land, illegally occupied by individual encroachers and illegal possession by government departments.
The matter of forcible possession of Pakistan Railways’ land by private and government departments has been taken up by the Federal Minister for Railways, who conducted meetings with Provincial Chief Ministers and Chief Secretaries. The Chief Ministers have directed the concerned provincial secretaries to resolve railway land issues.
A comprehensive policy was framed to prevent further encroachments and to make the concerned Railway officers/officials and railway police officials jointly responsible in case of new encroachments. A standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and joint Procedure Orders were issued for strict implementation of this policy. Cases are being heard at the courts and the land under un-authorized occupation has been retrieved.
A GIS based land Asset Management System for computerization of the Railways land record was initiated in 2015 to harmonize the record with the provincial revenue record and will be completed in December 2017.
Railways Engineering Code is used to determine the value of land. The Ministry also informed that a slight variation in the figures is expected after automation of records. The Committee ruled a lack of initiative by the Ministry on the encroachment issue. The committee directed the Ministry to furnish it with final and exact figures on retrieved encroached land, its possession, and policy governing the entire issue.