ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Defence Secretary Lt. Gen. (retd) Mian Hilal to revive all the land of Cantonment Board in its actual form, saying that the land not being used for defence purposes should be returned to the government.
“Cinemas, housing societies, and shopping malls are being constructed on the lands allotted for defence purposes. This is a trend in lands under the cantonment boards across the country,” Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed said while hearing a suo motu case on the use of cantonment board military land for commercial use.
Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Mian Hilal appeared in the court and submitted a report related to the commercial activities on land under cantonment board that the CJ rejected while terming it “unsatisfactory”. The court also directed the defence secretary to submit a fresh report within four weeks.
The chief justice said that the court was giving orders for demolition of illegal constructions in Karachi. “The service road has been encroached by erecting tall buildings at Karsaz,” he said, adding that the cantonment board land has not been divided in different categories.
Justice Gulzar said that shopping malls were being built on such land in Quetta and Lahore, while remarking that it was not clear how the Ministry of Defense would sustain such activities.
The defence secretary informed the court that a joint committee of all three armed forces had been formed to check violations of the law.
The apex court said that such constructions were taking place on cantonment board’s lands across the country.
A retired major had given the land of global marquee on lease, the court remarked with the CJP adding that the army was yet to take any action against the retired officer in question.
The CJP asked how the defence ministry was planning to take the land back - originally alloted to army officers -- which has since been sold multiple times.
The CJP further said that "allotting houses to senior army officers does not fall under defence purposes."
The SC bench told the secretary to mention which cantonment land was being used for what purpose. He added that as per the law, only defence-related activities can be allowed on military land.
The secretary responded that the term ‘strategic defence’ was a broad term. He claimed the “commercial activities on the military land were also part of strategic defence”.
He said that commercial activities on military land promoted the welfare and boosted the morale of the army deployed on borders during peace times.