ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, has asked provincial governments and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) to swiftly submit their Master Plans along with recommendations within the next week. This call came during a committee meeting convened by the Minister of Planning and Development and Special Initiatives Muhammad Sami Saeed to address the crucial issue of regulating the conversion of agricultural land into housing societies throughout Pakistan.
The committee, established by the Prime Minister, focuses on building a consensus regarding this significant matter. Minister Muhammad Sami Saeed serves as the Convener of the committee, and its members comprise provincial Chief Secretaries, the Secretary of the Ministry of National Food Security & Research, the Secretary of the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination, as well as Provincial Ministers responsible for Agriculture, Cooperatives, Revenue, and local government.
Highlighting the urgency of preserving agricultural land in the face of pressing challenges, the Minister stated, “There is a dire need of the hour to preserve the agricultural land keeping in view the challenges being faced by the country.” This marked the second meeting on the subject chaired by the Minister. The meeting was attended by key stakeholders, including the Secretary of the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination, Chief Statistician from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Member Infrastructure at the Planning Commission, Chairman of the Naya Pakistan Housing & Development Authority (NPHDA), and representatives from the provinces.
Minister Muhammad Sami Saeed emphasized the significance of addressing Master Plans, Legal Frameworks, and proper implementation. He reiterated the government’s commitment to preserving agricultural land in the country. During the meeting, representatives from the provinces and ICT briefed the forum about their existing Master Plans, the legal framework in place, and mechanisms for law implementation. The Minister promptly directed these stakeholders to submit their recommendations alongside their Master Plans within one week.
The committee’s Terms of Reference (TORs) encompass a comprehensive examination of the potential implications of converting agricultural land into housing societies, especially concerning food security, agricultural growth, the livelihoods of rural communities, and the accelerating pace of urban migration. The TORs also involve a thorough review of existing federal and provincial legislation related to the subject, as well as prevailing land use and zoning regulations. The committee is set to engage with relevant stakeholders and sector experts to foster consensus among provinces on the introduction of rules discouraging such land conversion.
Additionally, the committee aims to develop general guidelines that discourage the conversion of agricultural land into housing societies and explore measures for promoting vertical housing in cities and urban centers. Furthermore, the committee will deliberate on the strategic planning of future industrial zones in non-cultivable areas, aligning with the overarching goal of sustainable land use and development in Pakistan.