Islamabad March 28, 2021: Former Senator and Secretary General of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians Farhatullah Babar today expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court verdict that allowed DHA Quetta to continue acquiring land for its schemes not only in Quetta but anywhere in Balochistan.
The Supreme Court on Saturday overturned the verdict of Balochistan High Court in December last declaring some clauses of DHA Act 2015 as violating the Constitution. The BHC also restrained the army run Housing Authority from exercising powers under those clauses. Earlier on March 16 the Supreme Court had held in abeyance the BHC verdict in the case.
In a statement today Farhatullah Babar said that overturning of BHC verdict amounted to giving a free hand to DHA Quetta to acquire land anywhere in the province as Clause 6-b authorized the Executive Board to do so.
The Executive Board of the DHA Quetta under clause 5-c consisted of the Commander Southern Command Quetta, Administrator of the Authority who under the Act must be a serving or retired Brigadier, two members nominated by Commander Southern Command in his discretion and Secretary of Authority also serving or retired army officer.
With such composition of the executive board and vast powers vested in it the militarization of land acquisition process is disturbing and sends wrong signals.
The clauses declared unconstitutional by BHC also included Claus 6-b that permitted the Authority to acquire land anywhere in the province, he said.
He said that the SC may have barred the DHA Quetta from stepping out of ‘specified areas’ but there was no satisfaction to be drawn from it.
Such restraint is of little value when the Executive Board had unlimited powers to acquire land anywhere in the province and declare it as ‘specified areas’, he said.
The restraint on exercise of powers outside the acquired lands might sound pleasing but it is rendered meaningless when the Authority has unlimited powers to acquire land, he said. Clause 3 (q) of the Act defines “Specified areas” all land purchased or acquired by, or leased to the Authority not only in Quetta but anywhere in Balochistan, he said.
Farhatullah Babar also recalled that a private Housing Scheme had moved petition in BHC as aggrieved party against the DHA Quetta. The petitioner private housing society later sought to withdraw the petition which was disallowed. Farhatullah Babar said that an investigation into it might also shed light on the operations of the housing authority.
Farhatullah Babar said that he respected the Supreme Court and its verdict has to be implemented.
However the verdict had also made it imperative for the Parliament to undertake a thorough reappraisal of the functioning of all DHAs, how they acquired lands, how they are managed, how plots are distributed, their mushroom growth and how they were run by serving army officers while claiming status of a private sector enterprise.
The Defence Ministry and state institutions should also pause and ponder over the consequences of unbridled militarization of state, society and lands he said.