Army should not compromise on bigger cause for petty business

| Top court orders military lands under commercial use be returned to govt 

If court allows the army, how can it direct others to demolish illegal constructions?

ISLAMABAD   -  The Supreme Court of Pakistan Tuesday expressed its dissatisfaction over the Defence Secretary’s report and questioned the construction of cinemas, marriage halls and schools on the land allotted to the military for defence purpose.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed conducted hearing of the case related to the commercial activities in Cantonment areas. The bench on the request of Attorney General allowed the federation to withdraw the report.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Gulzar asked how can the army carry out commercial activities on state land?” He said that the state land should not be “exploited”. He added that the cantonment land had to be returned to the government after defence objectives were met.

Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retd) Mian Mohammad Hilal Hussain informed the bench that a joint committee of all three armed forces had been formed to check violations of the law.

The court noted that shopping malls had also been built on defence land in Lahore and Quetta and said, “It is not clear how the Ministry of Defence will sustain these activities.” He asked from the AGP who will tell the army about the law regarding use of military land.

“The army should not compromise on its bigger objectives for petty business,” Justice Qazi Amin remarked. He added that the military should be mindful of the sanctity of its institution.

The CJP issued orders for the immediate demolition of a wall adjacent to the Kala Pul and the Grand Convention Hall.

The Chief Justice observed that cinemas, petrol pumps, housing societies, shopping malls and marriage halls were being constructed on land meant for defence purposes. He said that if they allow the army then how could they direct the others to demolish the illegal constructions?

Justice Gulzar stated, “The law’s intention is not that defence land is used for any other purpose.” “If [the land] is not being used for defence then it will go back to the government,” he added. “General sahib, these are not defence purposes,” he told the defence secretary and asked the attorney general to explain how the defence ministry would “limit the land’s use to defence”.

The CJ stated that schools and marriage halls had also been built on Faisal Base land. “It is being said that Masroor and Korangi airbases are being shut and [perhaps] commercial activities will be started there,” he added.

The CJP further said that “allotting houses to senior army officers does not fall under defence purposes.”

The defence secretary informed the Court that the commercial activities on the military land promoted the welfare and boosted the morale of the army deployed on borders during peace times.

At this the Chief Justice remarked, “Mr. Secretary, everything is fine, but where is the cantonment there?” “There are houses everywhere. If commercial use of land is being termed as strategic then what do the ‘defence’ purposes mean,” he added.

The CJP said that the Canteen Stores Department (CSD) was turned into an open commercial departmental store and the buildings were being erected overnight in the cantonments. “Let us know what do you intend to do [to end commercialization],” he said.

The secretary told that an inter-services committee has been established to take notice of violations on the military land.

Justice Gulzar asked that how the defence ministry was planning to take the land back as it has now been sold multiple times. He stated, “Your army officials bought the land, sold it to someone else, and left.”

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