Farmers are staging protests and also held a rally in the Ravi project area after a joint team of the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda), revenue department, and police arrived to take possession of the land “acquired” by the government for the housing project. On Dec 6, an elderly farmer named Sajjad Warraich was arrested as his land was being seized by RUDA officials. Warraich was waving the LHC order on land acquisition and continued to protest against the forceful eviction.

An editor at GEO News named Benazir Shah (Benazir_Shah) stated on her Twitter handle that Warraich has been leading the protest of local farmers against the Ravi Urban Development Authority’s illegal seizure of their land.

Back story:

On Jan 24, the Lahore High Court issued its decision in the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development project case. The court ruled that because proper procedures were not followed in purchasing agricultural land, the practice of acquiring land through amendment to Section 4 of the RUDA Ordinance was unconstitutional. Justice Shahid Karim directed RUDA to return the loans obtained from the provincial government for the project.

The SC order:

Later, on Jan 31, the Supreme Court suspended LHC’s decision and granted the Punjab government conditional permission to carry out development work. A two-member bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan directed the Punjab government to limit development work to land whose owners had been paid. The court also ordered the authorities to refrain from carrying out any development work on lands whose owners have not been paid.

What’s happening now:

But the officials are now forcing farmers off their lands who are claiming that they have not been paid any compensation. On Oct 13, RUDA was barred from acquiring land in violation of SC orders, according to the LHC. The order was issued by Justice Shahid Karim in response to a petition filed by the Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan. The petitioner’s lawyer, Advocate Ahmad Rafay Alam, argued before the court that Ruda was making new acquisitions in violation of a Supreme Court decision issued on January 31, 2022.

An Urban Development Specialist named Shayk (Twitter/ShaykShack) disclosed on his account that there is a tiny patch of farmland now where farmers are refusing to sell the land to RUDA developers since the land is all they have, “Against the orders of high court, PTI Punjab govt is carrying out night time raids to evict farmers from their land,” he added.

Since then, there is no check & balance on the matter as farmers, who don’t want to sell their lands, are being forcefully evicted. A journalist named Uzair Younus shed light on why this is a matter of national security as Pakistan’s 40% of the workforce belongs to the agricultural sector, “When ratio between reserves and imports is inversely proportional, the PKR value deteriorates.” The outcome sees food insecurity, malnutrition, and debt rising while all the savings go south, “Expansion of ‘plotistan’ takes away fertile farmland and converts it into housing schemes. This creates human, economic, and strategic insecurity,” says Uzair as he mentions Imran Khan’s Punjab government who is not following its own security policies.

What does RUDA say:

Dawn quoted a RUDA spokesman who denied the farmers’ claim, “It is completely false. We have possession of the land and are working on it.” He claims RUDA obtained the land after following all of the procedures outlined in the Land Acquisition Act.