Supreme Court rejects report submitted by the defense secretary
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has rejected a report submitted by the defense secretary about businesses on military lands and has ordered the demolitions of two structures with immediate effect.
Hearing a case about military lands on Tuesday, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed said that all the land of the cantonments must be restored to its original condition.
“Allotting houses or plots, cinemas, wedding halls, schools and home to high-ranking army officers do not in any way serve defense purposes. Cantonments are just for strategic purposes,” the judge remarked.
The secretary told the court that they had removed marquees for weddings on military land in Karachi. The armed forces have decided to stop commercial activities on military and cantonments lands, he said.
However, the court found the report unsatisfactory. It allowed the Defense Secretary to withdraw the report for resubmission.
The chief justice said that all illegal buildings in Karachi are being demolished and it is not possible to spare illegal military constructions. “If we spare military’s illegal constructions, how could we demolish all other structures” constructed in breach of the law, the CJP said.
The CJP issued orders for the immediate demolition of a wall adjacent to the Kala Pul and the Grand Convention hall.
The chief justice further remarked that schools and wedding halls have also been set up at Faisal Base
“If a wedding guest takes off and rips down the runway, how will it be handled?” he asked.
“It seems airbases will be closed and commercial activities will be started.”
“State land cannot be exploited. The army is there to defend the country, not to run businesses,” the judge said.
The court told the defense secretary that once strategic purposes is achieved, land must be returned. “If Masroor air base is being emptied, then it should be returned. Businesses can’t just be opened there. Faisal air base has a wedding hall,” he said
The court said all the rules and regulations of the Army will be reviewed under the Constitution and all the land must be restored to its original condition.
The court ordered the defense secretary to submit a report within four weeks after implementing the court order. At the last hearing, the apex court had instructed the defense secretary to submit a policy document signed by all services chief on the use of military lands for commercial purposes.
In 1953, Pakistan Defence Officers Housing Authority was formed as a society. When you make a society, it is either premised on welfare or a social setting and there are a limited number of things it can do. If you want to expand on that, then you need more authorization.
The PDOHA’s work was the welfare of its members. Membership was limited to people who were associated with our defence institutions. The fundamental reason was that these people had served the country. It was formed on the basis to allot people land upon which they would build their homes.
By 1977, we entered General Zia ul Haq’s era and by this time the PDOHA had started to run into complications. It did not have a particularly good relationship with the provincial Sindh government. And much like other societies that had been around for three decades or so, its goals had diverged from its delivery.
And then, in 1980, Zia ul Haq passed a Presidential Order to create a Defence Housing Authority or DHA. That DHA was given extensive powers, including master urban planning.
DHA was given a governing body whose members were the chiefs of defence institutions—the Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff. Its chairman was the Secretary of Defence.
Under the governing body was an executive board with serving officers. This executive board was tasked with working on the “sound principles of development, town planning and housing” and it had to regularly report to the governing body. The governing body’s sole prerogative would be to ascertain if DHA was working according to policy or had departed from it.
DHA was given extraordinary powers through this authority. It would make its own rules and would be an authority unto itself. In order to evade the local government system, which looks after municipal works, sewage, drainage, property taxation, water supplies—all the problems DHA experiences today—the Presidential Order split Karachi Cantonment into two. The southern cantonment was renamed Clifton Cantonment and all of DHA’s land at that time, approximately 76 acres, or DHA Phase I today, was handed over to it.
Prima facie DHA’s land was given to the CBC because the society had run into a dilemma. It was a society of serving or retired “faujis”, but it was answerable to Revenue authorities in the Sindh government that taxed it and tried to dictate how it should run in certain respects. So this was brought to a full stop in the 1980s when the CBC was formed and its jurisdiction was granted.