ProPropertyNewsPHC Seeks Government Policy on Agricultural Land Protection

PHC Seeks Government Policy on Agricultural Land Protection

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has called upon the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to submit its policy on housing schemes and industrial zones to ensure the safeguarding of agricultural land in the province.

The directive was issued by a bench comprising Justice Abdul Shakoor and Justice Syed Arshad Ali, who requested the government’s policy document through provincial advocate general Aamir Javed.

The court’s order came during the hearing of a petition filed against the acquisition of fertile land in Swabi district for the establishment of a small industrial estate.

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As per the details, the petition, filed by residents Zahirullah and Iftitahullah Khan, challenged the imposition of Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act by the Deputy Commissioner as the land acquisition collector.

Furthermore, the bench instructed the Small Industrial Development Board (SIDB), responsible for the industrial estate, to provide project details and environmental impact assessments to the deputy director (legal) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mumtaz Ali.

This information will contribute to the report requested by the high court in the previous hearing.

During the previous hearing, the court had included the provincial agriculture secretary and EPA director-general as respondents in the petition.

It also directed them to appoint officers with expertise in evaluating the viability of the land for food grain production and assessing the environmental impact of establishing an industrial estate in the area.

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In the current hearing, EPA deputy director Mumtaz Ali stated that he could not assess the land without an application from the relevant department regarding the project.

The bench then instructed SIDB lawyer Waseemuddin Khattak to provide the project details to Mr. Ali within a week, allowing him to produce the report within a month.

Additionally, the court received a report from the agriculture department’s section officer (litigation), Ikram Mohammad, regarding the assessment of the land intended for acquisition.

The report highlighted that the majority of the area was dedicated to cereal crops, mustard crops, and tobacco.

It further mentioned that wheat and mustard crops were harvested in April and May 2023, while standing Virginia tobacco was observed in the fields.

Previously, the court had suspended a notification issued by the Swabi Deputy Commissioner for land acquisition and ensured that interim relief granted to the petitioners would continue.

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Lawyer Rahmanullah Shah argued that upon the request of SIDB, the Swabi Deputy Commissioner issued the contested notification invoking Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act to claim over 1,000 kanal of agricultural land for the industrial estate.

The lawyer also pointed out that significant investment had been made in constructing the canal to facilitate farming on previously barren land.

Furthermore, he highlighted a provincial government order from 2020 prohibiting the use of agricultural land for other purposes and mentioned the presence of tube wells and tobacco farming on the land.

Source: DAWN

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