(ISLAMABAD – Pakistan) – A major controversy has erupted in Pakistan over who has the right to use a large swath of land set aside for public use and environmental conservation.
Margalla Hills National Park of Pakistan is located on the northwestern part of the capital city, Islamabad. It is the continuation of the Himalayan foothills.
But this park spanning almost 16 thousand acres is under threat.
Illegal human settlements, hunting and commercial construction and even a popular restaurant and the Margalla Greens golf club belonging to Pakistan’s armed forces is all now part of the landscape.
The Islamabad High Court recently ordered authorities to seal off the golf club and the restaurant in a bid to protect the environment. The court also said the military’s claim to 8,000 acres of this national park is illegal.
“What happens in Pakistan is that 50 percent orders of the courts are implemented and 50 percent are given certain privileges, so that should not happen,” said Harris Nawaz, a retired high ranking military officer.
The Forest on the Margalla Hills is the natural habitat for a variety of animals and birds. Observers say the federal government is working on issues related to climate change but the national park has been left to land grabbers.
According to Waqar Shah, senior board member of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board “we consider the birds, the insects, the mutation, the landscape, the soil, the water so that whole ecosystem, we look at it because it functions as an integrated, interconnected ecosystem,”
The court also raised questions over how the federal government allotted the land to the military in the first place and justices urged the government to preserve the land for future generations.