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Lahore
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
EditorialJustice after 60 years

Justice after 60 years

Residents of encroached lands when uprooted through court orders are often looked with disdain by the unaffected majority that loses nothing in the process. Echoes of ‘they should just go to courts and ask for an alternate land or monetary compensation’ are heard at elite gatherings when spoken of their plight. But going to courts is not only financially and emotionally taxing for those who have already lost their livelihood but the delays experienced in the ruling can make anyone lose hope in our justice system. The Supreme Court’s recent verdict on the Tarbela Dam affectees is just another stark reminder of the same and as the saying goes ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice-designate Umar Ata Bandial on Monday ordered the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) to allot an alternative land to the people affected by the construction of the dam and compensate the victims by upholding the previous decision of Peshawar High Court regarding the same. The bench verdict comes 60 years after scores of people were evacuated to build the dam. The construction of the 2,743 metres dam situated in the city of Swabi began in 1968. As many as 135 villages were submerged and about 96,000 people displaced for the large reservoir of the dam. The then federal government had promised to allot 60,000 acres of land in Punjab and Sindh to those affected by its construction. But while around 2,400 influential families got their due share of 30,000 acres land in Punjab, others – 4,000 families – were left at the mercy of WAPDA authorities. These affectees had made multiple complaints to the top court accusing WAPDA of delaying the compensation. Moreover, influential families in Sindh also illegally took over lands allotted to other affectees, depriving them of their due right as the provincial government did little to nothing to ensure release of illegal possession of the land.

The Tarbela Dam case once again exposes how the country’s system favours those in positions of power, while scores of people are crippled under it. Under such circumstances, how are affectees of other projects, such as, those of Gujjar Nullah or Nasla Tower, supposed to have faith in the system when it took 60 years for the court’s verdict in the Tarbela Dam case? Many of these affectees might not even be alive to hear the ruling in their favour. It is time for our judicial system to do some serious soul-searching as many lives depend on it.

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