Haqooq-e-Khalq Party President Ammar Ali Jan has criticised the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed Punjab government and the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) for allegedly acquiring farmlands forcibly from farmers and destroying crops on hundreds of acres along the river.
The RUDA is working on a 46km long real estate project on the agriculture lands along the river. Earlier, the Lahore High Court (LHC) had declared the project illegal for various violations of laws on January 25. The Supreme Court, however, set aside the LHC order on January 30 and gave the authority conditional permission to work on the land whose compensation had been paid to its owners.
Speaking in Naya Daur TV show “Awaam Ki Baat” on Tuesday, Ammar said that the PTI and land grabbers are backing the project despite it being against the interests of farmers and the country.
“When the country is suffering from devastating floods and severe food crisis, they are destroying standing crops and acquiring farmlands forcibly along the Ravi river,” he added.
Farmer Mian Mustafa Rasheed, who is also the chief of the joint action committee of the affected landowners, said that former prime minister and PTI chief “Imran Khan and land mafia are involved in this illegal project”.
Rasheed, however, said he has held a meeting with the RUDA’s chief executive officer and requested the latter to stop illegal acquisition of farmlands along the river, adding that contempt petitions against the authority have also been filed in a court.
Imran had laid the foundation stone of the project in August, 2020.
Earlier in 2020, a fact-finding mission by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on RUDAP concluded that it will damage the environment, render homeless poor farmers and their families, and that the government had acted under the “influence of special business interest groups”.
Environmental lawyer, Ahmad Rafay Alam in another Naya Daur TV broadcast had said that the land RUDA is trying to acquire for building a new city was prime fertile land, it is green gold. It must not be sold as food security in Lahore and its environs was dependent on this land.
He said that there was no need to develop this project, as the developers were pushing a ‘Townhouse Template’, where 3-4 kanal houses would be built with enough space to house at least two cars while also providing ample space for a garden as well. “Because this is a low-density housing plan that caters to fewer people and gives them more space, you are going to end up needing at least 17 or 1,800 square km of land more when the population inevitably grown in the next 15-20 years.”
He said these houses would require their own gas, water and electricity connections which would be paid by the taxpayer, whereas the people who would be living in the houses are those who can afford to buy houses priced at 2-4 crore rupees.