News Desk |
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has instructed relevant authorities to formulate a plan that will prevent the establishment of settlements across sensitive border areas by proclaiming it a buffer zone, much like the strategy implemented by the Indian government.
Observing Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, on Wednesday, observed that not declaring borders as buffer zones encourages smuggling and illegal infiltration. He noted, “Border areas are sensitive regions, and human settlements in these areas are a threat to Pakistan’s interests, along with being a catalyst of smuggling and infiltration amongst other challenges”.
The SC of Pakistan has instructed relevant authorities to formulate a plan that will prevent the establishment of settlements across sensitive border areas by proclaiming it a buffer zone.
Justice Gulzar Ahmed led a three-judge bench to hear a case of land disputes that rose because the plots allotted to the people residing in border areas were cancelled due to the demand for no-objection certificates.
These disputed areas are situated within a five-mile radius of the border. IN 1961, the federal government proposed a schemed, titled the Scheme for Determination of Price, Terms and Conditions for the Allotment of Land under Martial Law Regulation-9, Zone B. This proposal intended to carry out allotments to establish a first line or defence alongside the border area by establishing permanent settlements of serving and retired army personnel.
Pakistan to Follow India’s Example
These areas begin from Shakargarh to Bahawalpur, and the SC was informed that despite stretching over eight kilometers in width, the area sprawls thousands of kilometers alongside the Pak-India border. The acting Chief Justice noted that India had established a buffer zone on its border locations as a security measure, and now, no one can live in these areas.
Addressing the Attorney General, Anwar Mansoor, the acting Chief Justice, Gulzar, noted that Pakistan must follow India’s example and declare the areas within a one-two kilometers radius from the border as a buffer zone.
The acting Chief Justice noted that India had established a buffer zone on its border locations as a security measure, and now, no one can live in these areas.
Attorney General Mansoor informed the court that Pakistan cannot be compared with India, given that it (Pakistan) is a much smaller country, however, he assured the Supreme Court that he will begin talks with the relevant quarters to undertake such an initiative.
Acting Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed clarified that no one has the legal right to establish residence in border areas, and the government can seize these lands at any given point in time. Justice Gulzar questioned the petitioners what they will do in the instance Pakistan and India go to war.
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One of the petitioners, a retired army officer, informed the Supreme Court that he had been allotted the land near the border, and border regulations were not applicable on residents like him. The retired army officer informed the court of his placement during the Pak-India wars of 1965 and 1971, and stressed that in case of an Indian misadventure, he will defend the motherland. The Acting Chief Justice stressed that defending the country was the responsibility of the armed forces.
In a consent order, the SC noted that all the private petitioners and parties, who had not been given NOCs by the concerned authorities, gave their consent on having no objections in the Border Area Committee (BAC), provides them an extension to review their case for obtaining an NOC.
Gulzar, noted that Pakistan must follow India’s example and declare the areas within a one-two kilometers radius from the border as a buffer zone.
The Supreme Court also instructed the relevant authorities to undertake additional initiatives to strengthen security measures in border areas, which the court deemed to be the responsibility of the armed forces.
BAC Responsible for Allotment Review
The three-judge bench led by Justice Gulzar Ahmed handed over the responsibility to the Border Area Committee (BAC), tasked with the responsibility to review every single case of land allotment in sensitive border areas to private individuals and provide them with NOC as per the laws and legal requirements.
As per the judgment of the Supreme Court, the Chairman of the BAC has complete authority to undertake measures in accordance with legal provisions in order to make sure the entire exercise is effectively completed within one year.
The BAC will also be tasked with the responsibility to review whether the allotment of lands in border areas, including the lands allotted to BAC staff and officials, is illegal. If any allotment is discovered to be illegal, BAC is ordered by the Supreme Court to cancel the allotment.
BAC Report: Border Security Challenges
Earlier, the BAC chairman had submitted a report in the Supreme Court, highlighting significant discrepancies in polices implemented across border areas that could be a catalyst for several national security challenges.
The Supreme Court also instructed the relevant authorities to undertake additional initiatives to strengthen security measures in border areas.
The report put forward specific reasons for the transfer of State/Evacuee/Evacuee Trust lands situated within a five miles or 8.1 kilometers of the border region. The report reveals that restricting off border areas is important for both, public safety and national security. The BAC report highlighted that public interest and safety takes far more precedence over private interest or even property interests, hence, the authorities must order the destruction of certain properties if required.
The report of BAC added that in case of heightened escalations with India, the people residing in the sensitive areas of the border belt are always the first to respond as the Regular Force cannot be vigilant on every inch of the border strip.
The MLR-9 Scheme, introduced in 1961, prohibited alienation without finalizing a penalty, a wide range of people managed to sell off their allotted lands without obtaining the required permissions, creating challenges and ambiguities in the initial purpose of introducing such a regulation.
Infiltration of RAW Agents & National Security Challenges
The report further highlighted that certain undesirable elements and individuals, including RAW-sponsored activities and Indian spies might have established residence in the border area to pass on sensitive information during and after the wars of 1965 and 1971.
The report reveals that restricting off border areas is important for both, public safety and national security.
The report, as shared by Dawn News, noted, “Hostile intelligence agencies continuously make utmost effort to exploit the border areas and try to establish covert basis.” In order to eliminate the possibility of such security breaches alongside the entire border strip, GHQ conducted a review of the policies implemented on border areas and comprehensive orders were undertaken to strengthen national security.
The BAC argued that settlement of undesirable individuals can compromise border security, and given the dynamic nature of the ongoing hybrid war, any encampment of undesirable elements or individuals in border areas, regardless of whether it is peace or war, will intensify threats to national security.
The report stated that NOC is the only measure to secure the border area of spies and hostile agencies. It stated, “NOC is the only mean available to check/deny ingress in border areas to agents of adversaries. Abolishment of NOC will serve the purpose of adversaries.”