No more commercial activities on military land, SC told

CJ slams defence secy over wedding halls, cinemas, housing societies built there


Nasir Butt November 26, 2021
Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

KARACHI:

Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retd) Mian Hilal Hussain on Friday informed the Supreme Court that all three services chiefs had agreed that there would be no more commercial activities on military land.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed expressed his outrage to the defence secretary over the use of military land for commercial activities, raising the question as to whether or not the construction of wedding halls and cinemas was intended for defence purposes as well.

At the Supreme Court's Karachi registry, a three-judge bench headed by the CJP and comprising Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan was hearing the issue of military land being used for commercial activities.

The secretary informed the court that the army, naval and air chiefs were in agreement over the decision to stop the commercialisation of the military land.

However, the chief justice asked him to submit a written report with the signatures of all three chiefs.

"All Askari housing schemes are built on military land," the CJP noted. “Big advertisements on Askari IV are akin to making a mockery of the court's orders.”

The top judge told the defence secretary that he was sitting in Islamabad, yet he could not even control a major or a colonel. “They act as if they are the kings of the area.”

The CJP added: "This land was given to you for strategic and defence [purposes and yet] you have started commercial activities on it. Were wedding halls, cinemas and housing societies built for defence purposes?”

The chief justice directed the secretary to submit a policy report on the issue and also asked him to explain what would be the fate of already built properties on the military land.

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The secretary replied that it would take time to fix this issue.

Justice Amin asked him how that would be made possible and where the process would start.

The CJP ordered the defence secretary to tell all the chiefs of the armed forces that the land meant for defence purposes would not be used for commercial activities.

"Go and tell all the chiefs [of the armed forces] that the land meant for defence purposes will not be used for commercial objectives. Go to all the military cantonments and tell them the land will be used only for strategic purposes," CJ Ahmed ordered the defence secretary.

Justice Gulzar noted that commercial activities were underway at Masroor Base and Faisal Base and tall buildings had been erected even though orders were given to remove signboards.

The court adjourned the hearing till November 30. It also noted that the next hearing would take place in Islamabad and a written report be submitted there.

On Wednesday, the top court had observed that defence institutions were not supposed to be running businesses and operating cinemas.

The CJP had observed that defence institutions had started profit-making businesses on strategic lands. Cinemas and wedding halls are being opened and run on these lands and commercial plazas are being built there.

The SC had asked the defence secretary to appear before the court with a report on this use of land.

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