A new war seems to be brewing in Pakistan in which on one hand is the Pakistan judiciary and on the other is the country’s army.
The dispute in this war is land grab. From grabbing the land of its neighbours, the ‘mighty’ Pakistan army is now grabbing land on its own soil.
Earlier this month, three petitions were filed in Pakistan accusing the defence housing authority (DHA) of illegally occupying around 40 to 50 acres of land.
On April 29, the petitions were being heard at the Lahore high court. The presiding judge was Chief Justice Mohammad Qasim Khan. He revealed that the Lahore high court had itself been a victim of the army’s land grab.
“The DHA has also illegally occupied 50 kanals of the Lahore high court and I will have an FIR lodged against the DHA. Everyone is equal before the law. Men in uniform cannot escape their crimes,” the judge said.
He also added that “the army has become the biggest land grabber in Pakistan. 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?”
The army has asked the court to remove the remarks from its records. However, the Chief Justice laid out simple facts and truths.
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.
Then in 2017, Former army Chief General Raheel Sharif was allotted 90 acres of land for agriculture in Lahore without any explanation. All attempts to find out the reason were labelled as treason.
Evidently, there’s merit to what the Chief Justice of Lahore has said and it’s not just about land grab. It’s also about the sense of entitlement in the Pakistan army and the kind of commercial activities it is involved in with no accountability.
Today, the Pakistan armed forces run at least 50 commercial entities including banks, bakeries, petrol pumps, schools, universities, food processing units, milk dairies, cement plants, insurance companies and even restaurants and wedding halls.
These businesses are operated under five foundations, namely the Fauji Foundation, Army welfare trust, Shaheen Foundation, Bahria Foundation and the Defence Housing Authority —the one involved in the current land grab case.
The military has also moved into the oil business with the establishment of the frontier oil company in 2019. It has also got a contract to build an oil pipeline worth $370 million.
Based on these facts, it would not be wrong to say that Pakistan is not a country with an army, but an army with a country.