$1 Billion Worth Pak Railways Lands In Litigation, Minister Seeks Top Court Intervention

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Pakistan Railways owns lands worth estimated $143 billion; lands worth estimated $72 billion remain stranded asset, encumbered, encroached or illegally occupied.

ISLAMABAD — The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on Friday ordered all high courts and subordinate courts to decide cases related to Pakistan Railways lands (federal asset) within the next two months.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice (CJ) Mian Saqib Nisar, passed the order while hearing a case regarding alleged illegal allotment of railways lands on lease for years.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed informed the top court that Rs 123 billion (US$1 billion) worth railways cases were pending in different courts across the country and that his ministry seeks early decisions so it could move forward with turnaround plans which are at stake.

To which, the bench directed for providing a list of all the pending cases with courts. The court also decided to look into PR Ministry’s constitutional and legal constraints on reshuffling its legal team representing the ministry in such cases.

Earlier on Thursday, the top court banned construction of housing societies on Railways’ lands and ordered seizure of all records pertaining to the Royal Palm Golf and Country Club (RPGCC) in Lahore which was developed by a consortium of businessmen on leased railway land.

The chief justice also declared a ban on more than three-year lease of agricultural lands belonging to Pakistan Railways and the construction of housing societies on PR lands.

Pakistan Railways owns lands worth $143 billion

UPDATED, Dec 29, 2018: Pakistan Railways owns and operates some 7,244 miles of tracks passing through rural and urban areas of the country–70 percent of these tracks trail through the rural landscape, and 30 percent snake through cities and suburbs. The railways corridor, the national trade corridor and the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor are aligned, making the railways lands prime real estate opportunities envelop for dry ports, free zones, commercial and industrial estates, including building housing clusters for the low and medium income groups.

These rail tracks on average have approximately 200 feet Right of Way (ROW) land on each side. Adding up this huge envelope of land belonging to the Railways (excluding the tracks) amounts to a whopping figure of 351,224 acres of land considered prime property. Not all are encroached or poached though, but lands illegally occupied, gerrymandered, leased and squatted upon run into billions of dollars.

To get an idea of the humongous value of land Pakistan Railways (PR) owns which could be monetized in public interest, here’s a quick calculation:

70% PR land is estimated to be in rural areas = 351,224 x 70% = 245,857 acres. At an average rate of Rs.12 lakh/acre and $1 @Rs130 = $2.27 billion.

30% PR land is estimated to be in cities and urban areas = 351,224 x 30% = 105,367 acres. At an average rate of Rs.12 crore/acre and $1 @Rs130 = $97.26 billion.

The Railways also owns huge land parcels in prime localities of major cities, urban areas and suburbs. According to an estimate, the total such land parcels are in excess of 28,000 acres–and highly priced. At an average rate of Rs.20 crore/acre and $1 @Rs130, the value of these land parcels exceed $43 billion.

Adding all the estimated figures up, the Pakistan Railways owns lands (encumbered and unencumbered) far in excess of US$142.53 billion.

However, an estimated 50 percent or more of these lands have been encroached, illegally occupied or grabbed for commercial reasons, etc. The estimated value of this stranded asset is as high as US$71.5 billion.

The incumbent Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed has vowed to use legal channels to resolve land issues, and add value to his ministry’s real estate assets both on government level as well as on public-private partnership basis.

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