Supreme Court Questions Conversion of Margalla Hills National Park into Military Grassland

Supreme Court raises concerns over Margalla Hills National Park's fate, questions conversion into military grassland. Ownership disputes and legal intricacies surround Monal Restaurant case.
Supreme Court Questions Conversion of Margalla Hills National Park into Military Grassland

In a significant legal development, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, expressed astonishment over the potential conversion of Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) into military grassland. The remarks were made during the hearing of an appeal filed by Messrs Monal group of companies against an Islamabad High Court (IHC) judgment ordering the closure and takeover of Monal Restaurant atop Margalla Hills.

The IHC, on January 11, 2022, had directed the government to seize and assume possession of Monal Restaurant, citing the expiration of the lease agreement with the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and declaring void an agreement with the military's Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate (RVFD).

During the Supreme Court hearing, Chief Justice Isa questioned how the MHNP could be transformed into military grassland and urged the administration to identify the "real owner" of the 8,600 acres of land within the MHNP. The court sought clarification on the legal status of RVFD and observed that only a legal entity could file a reply before the court.

Advocate Arafat Ahmed, representing the government, clarified that the CDA owned the land and was unwilling to transfer it to any other entity. However, the Chief Justice emphasized that the land belonged to the government, not the army.

Monal Restaurant's representative, Advocate Salman Akram Raja, disclosed that RVFD claimed ownership of the land and mentioned an ongoing civil suit to determine the actual owner. The court was informed that the CDA had initially put the land under Monal Restaurant's management.

In response, Chief Justice Isa emphasized that the restaurant was currently a trespasser, and its right flowed from the CDA. He noted the complex legal dynamics, stating, "It's a classic case of a suicide bomber."

The court challenged the lack of evidence regarding land ownership by RVFD and urged the petitioner to provide documents supporting the claim. The Chief Justice emphasized that the property belonged to the people of Pakistan, not the military, expressing concern over the potential conversion of the national park into military use.