LAHORE - A long-running dispute of Okara Military Farms comprising 17,000 acres of land has ‘almost been settled’ between tenants and Pakistan Army, a top NCHR official has claimed.

Punjab Member of National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) Kishwar Shaheen Awan told The Nation that the commission arranged hearings in recent months between the two parties and the dispute has almost been settled.

“NCHR chairman played a vital role in negotiating the solution to this dispute,” the commission member said.

“As an NCHR member from Punjab, I sat in these sessions and hearings and I can say [with confidence that] core issues between the two parties have been resolved,” she added.

But Pakistan Kissan Raabta Committee General Secretary Farooq Tariq told The Nation that the announcement of settlement of the issue of ownership is unilateral and the dispute is yet to be resolved.

Kishwar however said Okara deputy commissioner and district police officer have also sent reports of the settlement of the dispute of the land that encompasses around 20 villages.

She said farmers and tenants had stopped giving the Batai (share from crops) to Pakistan Army for the last 15 years due to the dispute of land ownership.

“I think the ownership issue was clear from the day first as the land of military farms belongs to the government of Punjab, and the revenue record was a testimony of it,” she explained.

Kishwar was of the view that now the tenants will not be dislocated from their present lands and peace prevailed in the area after the resolution of the dispute.

According to BBC Urdu report, NCHR Chairman Justice (r) Ali Nawaz Chohan has said that it has been decided to withdraw the criminal cases registered against the tenants to resolve the matter.

The decision came in the hearing of the case by NCHR on December 31.

Now the ball was in tenants’ court to respond to the goodwill gesture and accept all the terms offered to them for final settlement of the matter. According to the chairman, tenants will give their response on next hearing on January 17.

Justice Chohan said in the hearing held on Monday, the army acknowledged that the land belonged to Punjab government but claimed that the institution was in possession and control of the farms which produce fodder for their cattle and horses.

According to report, it has been decided that farmers will give 50 percent share of their yield to Pakistan Army or the government.

Pakistan Kissan Raabta Committee General Secretary and Awami Workers Party spokesperson Farooq Tariq said, “PKRC filed application in 2016 before NCHR and after many hearings, now Anjuman-e-Mazaraeen Punjab will submit their response before the commission”.

He claimed that the announcement of settlement on the issue of ownership by NCHR is unilateral and the dispute is yet to be resolved.

“It should be remembered that not only the previous governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif but also incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised to give Okara lands to farmers,” he pointed out.

Farooq said the farmers were cultivating these lands for last 100 years or so and therefore the land must belong to them. Even Land Reforms Commission had suggested giving them ownership, he said.

Anjuman-e-Mazaraeen Punjab second-tier leader Muhammad Ramzan said the organisation is going to meet in Lahore on January 12 to decide their further course of action.