NEW DELHI – The Pakistani Supreme Court came down heavily on the country’s military establishment on Friday on its involvement in running commercial ventures on the defence lands which were allotted to them only for defence purposes. During hearing a case on the commercial use of defence land, the three-judge bench headed by the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed grilled the defence secretary Lt General (Rtd) Mian Mohammad Hilal Hussain.
“These lands were 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 CJP asked Hussain, the Pakistani daily Dawn reports. According to the report the Pakistan army has opened commercial establishments at its many bases.
Not satisfied with his answer, the CJP ordered the Defence Secretary of Pakistan: “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.”
It seems that the Pakistani judiciary has decided to take the military establishment head on.
It is being seen as a challenge to the Pakistani military establishment, which is rare in a country that has been ruled by the Pakistani army for more than half of its seven decades, and where as the saying goes that it’s not a country with an Army but an Army with a country. And in the last seven decades the Pakistani Army, away from the primary work of protecting the country’s borders, has established a roaring business empire of over $20 billion and their most profitable business is real estate business which is being run under the Defence Housing Authorities (DHAs). Eight DHAs were established in major cities. These DHAs – mostly created through ordinances and according to the Pakistan government, are running more than 50 projects in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi-Islamaï¿½bad, Multan, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur, Peshawar and Quetta.
Few months back when DHS of Lahore tried about 50 acres of land owned by the Lahore high court, the Chief Justice of the High Court lamented that he did not want to say anything wrong about the army but “the army seems to have become the biggest land grabber in the country.” “The uniform of the army is for service and not to rule as a king. Is it only the army that makes sacrifices? Do other institutions like police, lawyers and judges not make sacrifices?”
This is not the first time the Pakistan army has been accused of grabbing land. In 2010, an army battalion grabbed 3,500 acres of land in Karachi which included a centuries-old graveyard too.
Today the Pakistan army establishment owns more than 100 independent businesses operated by subsidiaries of five Foundations of the military, viz. Fauji Foundation, Army Welfare Trust, Shaheen Foundation, Bahria Foundation, Pakistan Ordnance Factory Board Foundation and Defence Housing Authorities (DHAs).
In Pakistan, while politicians are sent to jail on corruption charges, no one dares to question the military establishment.
It was in 1998, Qazi Husain Ahmed the chief of Islamic party the Jamaat Islami (JI) had dared the Pakistan Army and said the generals were not Corps Commanders but “Crore Commanders”.
Today Pakistan is debt ridden and Imran Khan has been begging for funds from Saudi Arabia and China to make his “Naya Pakistan” but the Pakistani military establishment is cash flush. -IANS