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Friday July 19, 2024

LHC stops handover of 45,000-acre Punjab land to army on lease

Lahore High Court stopped the Punjab caretaker government from handing over approximately 45,000 acres of land to the Pakistan Army

By Numan Wahab
April 01, 2023
The Lahore High Court building in Lahore. The News/File
The Lahore High Court building in Lahore. The News/File

LAHORE: Lahore High Court’s Justice Abid Hussain Chattha has stopped the Punjab caretaker government, headed by Mohsin Naqvi, from handing over approximately 45,000 acres of land to the Pakistan Army on lease for corporate agriculture farming.

The caretaker Punjab government had notified handing over of 45,267 acres of land to the Pakistan Army on lease in three districts i.e. Bhakkar, Khushab and Sahiwal, for a corporate agriculture farming project. The caretaker government had signed a joint venture agreement on March 8, 2023 to hand over the land to the army.

Earlier, a notification was issued on February 20, 2023. The court stopped handing over of the land to the army on a petition moved by Ahmad Rafay Alam, on behalf of the Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan.

The judgment, a copy of which is available with The News, the Lahore High Court barred the caretaker government from extending any “lease of state land” for the above-mentioned purpose as per the government’s notification. The court issued notices to the respondents, Punjab Board of Revenue and secretaries of different departments, including Agriculture, Forest, Wildlife and Fisheries, Irrigation and Livestock & Dairy Development for May 9. Notices have also been served on the Attorney-General for Pakistan and Advocate General Punjab.

The petition argued that Section 230 (functions of caretaker government) of the Election Act 2017 says that the “mandate and scope of the caretaker government is limited to performing day-to-day functions of the government and is specifically barred from taking policy decisions of permanent nature”. The petitioner contended that the constitutional mandate restricts the army to perform functions of external and internal security, and does not extend to corporate agriculture farming, the intended purpose, as per the government’s notification.

The petitioner implored the court to declare the February 20 notification as illegal, and null and void, as it does not fall under the scope of the caretaker government.