At the beginning of the hearing, Justice Umar Atta Bandial asked whether the allotted land was property of the Auqaf Department or the government.
To this, a private land owner’s lawyer, Iftikhar Gilani, replied that the Auqat only takes care of the land and doesn’t own it. “I have submitted my reservations and response on the JIT report,” Gilani said. Justice Bandial remarked that how a chief minister could hand over the land to a private man after signing a summary?
Former Punjab governor Rafique Rajwana showed up before the SC on behalf of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the case.
“The land was handed over to the caretaker of the shrine to only look after it, but he sold it,” Rajwana told the court in his arguments. My counsel had nothing to do with this matter, he continued.
Justice Bandial in his remarks said the land was allotted through a summary signed by the then chief minister, which was in clear violation of the court orders.
The judge, seeking reply from the respondents on the JIT report, later adjourned the hearing of the case until after Eid.
The court issued notices to Nawaz Sharif, the attorney general and others to appear in person or through their lawyers for the hearing of the case.
It is noteworthy that the JIT constituted to probe the Pakpattan shrine land case against deposed Nawaz Sharif had held him responsible for “illegally transferring” shrine land when he was the chief minister of Punjab in 1985.
Last year, on December 13, the top court constituted a JIT to probe the illegal transfer of 14,394 kanals of land belonging to the Auqaf Department in Pakpattan district.
After the partition, Dewan Ghulam Qutab and his family used to be the ‘owners’ of the shrine’s land as per the revenue record from 1947 to 1958.
The family sold pieces of the land to different people until January 1, 1970, when the Punjab government notified the Auqaf Department as the rightful owner of the land and the Dewans the custodian of the shrine. Later, the Dewans moved the Lahore High Court but the case was decided against them.
In 1986, the government withdrew its 1970 notification and the Dewans reciprocated by withdrawing their appeal before the Lahore High Court against the decision.
With this, the Dewans resumed their land selling business and the Revenue Department issued ownership rights (fard) to all buyers.
In the meantime, a 1981 case regarding 17 marlas of land filed in a civil court reached the Supreme Court by 2015.
The apex court chief justice took suo motu of the land deals of the shrine and summoned officials of the Revenue and Auqaf departments and the Dewans.
After some hearings, the Supreme Court declared the notification of August 28, 1986, illegal and nullified all land deals done since then. The decision reportedly affected 100,000 residents of different localities.
The Dewans filed a review petition last year in defence of their right to sell the land with the Supreme Court against its 2015 decision, which remained pending since then.
Former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar, during his visit to the Baba Farid shrine in 2018, had promised justice in the case when dozens of the affected people raised slogans to get his attention towards their plight.