ISLAMABAD: Land allotment to former army chief retired Gen Raheel Sharif, currently serving as the commander of the Saudi Arabia-led Islamic military coalition, was questioned in the Senate on Friday, as an outspoken Pakistan Peoples Party senator sought to know under which law the allotment had been made.

Raising the issue of allotment of 88 acres of precious land to Mr Sharif as a ‘post-retirement benefit’, Senator Farhatullah Babar asked if all army chiefs had obtained similar benefit on their retirement.

He said his repeated questions on the issue had remained unanswered.

Speaking on an issue of public importance, he said that on Wednesday the National Accountability Bureau had arrested a senior civil servant in Lahore on the charge of being involved in illegal land transfers.

A day earlier NAB reopened a corruption reference against some retired army generals in a land transfer case that had remained dormant for over a decade, he said.

Earlier, NAB had taken action against some officials of the Sindh government on similar grounds.

Mr Babar said that a former army chief was allotted 88 acres of land but the questions asked about the legality of it were never answered except for a terse statement that it had been done in accordance with the Constitution.

However, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani did not allow any further discussion on the issue and told Mr Babar that he might raise the issue through a question in the lower house.

Then the senator raised the issue of protest demonstrations in Swat against harassment and humiliation of people at security check-posts.

He said protest demonstrations had erupted when travellers, particularly women, children and the elderly, underwent great difficulty at the check-posts while waiting in long queues.

When some people protested they were arrested and terrorism cases registered against them, Senator Babar said.

“Real terrorists enjoy state protection but innocent people of Swat are charged with terrorism merely for demanding self-respect,” he said demanding that the terrorism cases be immediately withdrawn and the concerns of Swat people be addressed.

In a brief chat with reporters later, Mr Babar said that the self-confessed terrorist and killer of the children of Army Public School was “enjoying state hospitality” but the peaceful people of Swat were charged with terrorism. What message was being conveyed to the people of Swat, he asked

Some important questions which remained unanswered in the Senate session included the one asked by Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini seeking details of foreign visits undertaken by the chief justices of superior courts over the last five years, with year-wise break up, duration and purpose of visits and expenditure incurred in each case.

Law Minister Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk in his written reply said that a response from the registrars of the Supreme Court and the high courts was still awaited though they had been requested to provide the requisite information months ago.

The session was prorogued sine die.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2018