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Wednesday January 19, 2022

Commercial use of military land will be stopped: secy defence

November 27, 2021

KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the secretary defence to submit the modus operandi and strategy to revert the cantonment lands used for commercial and residential purposes in respective cantonment boards. The court directed the secretary defence to submit the statement of armed forces heads with regard to ban on conversion of cantonment boards lands for commercial or residential purposes.

The direction came during the hearing of petitions with regard to removal of encroachments from public parks and playgrounds in the city.

The secretary defence submitted that heads of armed forces had already stopped conversion of cantonment board lands into private lands and construction of housing societies and commercial use of military land would be checked and stopped.

The court had earlier taken a serious exception to conversion of cantonment boards lands for private and commercial purposes in the city and observed that the land allotted for defence and strategic purposes could not be converted for housing societies.

The SC’s three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, inquired from secretary defence Lt. General (retd) Mian Mohammad Hilal Hussain with regard to conversion of cantonment board lands, meant for defence and strategic purposes, for private purposes of housing and commercial activities.

The court observed that conversion of the cantonment boards lands for private purposes was contrary to the cantonment boards Act and its land administration rules as the land allocated for COD and airport purposes could not be allowed for running marriage halls. The court observed that commercial activities were being carried out at cantonment boards after conversion of land.

The CJP observed that sometimes, it becomes a mockery of the institution when residential schemes and high rise buildings are constructed on cantonment lands, questioning as what defence and strategic significance was left after conversion of cantonment boards lands for private purposes. The court observed that all Askari housing projects had been built on cantonment lands. The court observed that cantonment boards have to be used for strategic purposes and all such conversions have to be reverted as such policies are contrary to the cantonment boards laws. The court observed that cantonment board lands given to the Navy have been converted, raising high-rise buildings, whereas commercial activities have been carried out at the PAF Base Faisal and PAF Base Masroor.

The court inquired from the defence secretary how the cantonment boards could roll back such conversion of lands observing that major and colonel ranking officers had become kings of the area and they do not comply with the orders of the court and do whatever they want. The court directed the secretary defence to issue directions to the cantonment boards that conversion of lands had been prohibited in the cantonment boards area.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan inquired from secretary defence that ban on future conversion of land was one aspect but the court wanted to know as what would be the strategy and modus operandi to revert the conversion of land to its original plan. The court observed that the Ministry of Defence has to circulate the decision of the armed forces heads that change of land use cannot be done and directed the secretary defence to submit the statement of armed forces heads with regard to such ban on conversion, which will be examined on the next date of hearing. The court directed the secretary defence to submit the statement on reverting the conversion of cantonment board lands to its original position and adjourned the hearing till Tuesday. 

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