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Samungli Air Base: Senate panel asks PAF to make proper payment to land owners

By Mumtaz Alvi

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Defence in its report has called on the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to make proper payment through the Land Acquisition Collector to the land owners and construction in the newly-leased 84 areas land for the Samungli Air Base be resumed only after clearance from the Balochistan government.

On behalf of the committee chairman, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed and Salahuddain Tirmizi presented the report in the House. The panel called for starting construction work on the base after settlement of issues with the tribes within 30 days.

The committee directed the station commander Quetta and the deputy commissioner to clarify the Danger Zone to the tribesmen, specifically in the Firing Range areas, where land can be used for agriculture purpose by the tribes but no construction work is permitted for security reasons.

An adjournment motion moved by PkMAP senators, namely Muhammad Usman Kakar, Sardar Muhammad Azam Musakhel and Ms Gul Bashra, regarding the ‘alarming rise in the occupation of land by military and air force in district Quetta, causing disharmony amongst the people’, was referred
to the committee by the chair.

The matter was taken up in the committee meeting on June 19, where detailed deliberations had taken place. In order to amicably resolve the issue, a sub-committee was formed with Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum as its convener and PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar and Senator Hidayat Ullah as its members, which visited the site and also held consultations with the stakeholders.

The sub-committee presented its report and the House standing committee met to discuss it on July 19. Deliberations were held on these points: the title of ownership of 248 acres land required for extension of Quetta Cantonment has already been decided. Compensation money, Rs1.87 billion, has been released as per the deputy commissioner Quetta and Station Commander Cantonment.

The report said small misunderstanding about locals rights on areas included the Firing Range boundary were removed when the station commander clarified that the ownership of that land does not change and locals were allowed to sink tube wells and use land for agriculture purposes but obviously as the construction of buildings in the area was unsafe, it was not allowed for security reasons as per laid down
laws.

As regards 23 acres of land at Saraghurgia, it was also being acquired legally by the Land Acquisition Collector under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The issue of 23 acres of land is however sub-judice and will be decided by the court as explained by the deputy commissioner.

It was also brought out by the DC that 84 acres of land adjacent to Samungli Air Base was legally leased out to the PAF by the provincial government as the title of the land in question was still ‘unsettled’ and it was owned by the state and not by any tribe.

“It was thus revealed that the issue was not between the armed forces and locals but between the provincial government and the tribes, who claimed that the land in question was settled in 1992 against their names and thus they were the rightful owners of the land and should be compensated by the Balochistan government, should they desire to lease it out.

The government rejected this claim, saying that since many tribes objected to the settlement finalised, it was later on cancelled in 1996.  The land therefore belonged to the state and not the tribes,” the report said. After deliberations, it was unanimously recommended by the panel that use of force should be avoided against the tribal people and the matter be resolved amicably in the light of the laws.

“The PAF should make proper payment through LAC to the land owners for acquisition of land in the settled areas. However, any construction in the newly-leased 84 acres of land should only be resumed after clearance from the provincial government, which is advised to settle the issue legally with the tribes within 30 days so that PAF Base Samungli could undertake its construction work for the welfare projects,” it said.

“The status of all affected lands should be clarified by the provincial government quickly and settlement be done where required. LAC should fix reasonable rates of the land being acquired in consultation with the local tribes as per the Land Acquisition Act,” the report said.

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