ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court called for a commitment from the federal government to ensure the armed forces exclusively focus on defence-related matters rather than commercial activities.

The assurance was sought by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, who was heading a three-judge bench in a case scrutinising the use of military lands for business purposes.

The matter was initiated by former CJP Gulzar Ahmed in 2021 when the court’s attention was drawn to the alleged illegal use of cantonment board lands in Karachi, which were acquired for strategic purposes but used for commercial gains.

On Wednesday, Justice Isa regretted that the army had set up marriage halls on military lands and then sought assurance from Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan that the military would not engage in running business.

Asks govt to ensure armed forces focus on defence rather than commercial activities

“Can you get this assurance?” Justice Isa asked Mr Usman, adding that every institution should remain within its domain and work according to its mandate.

The attorney general conceded that the principle demanded that everyone should do their own job.

At the hearing, the counsel for the Evacuee’s Trust Property Board (ETPB) told the court the building from which the dispute erupted belonged to the board since the individual to whom the land was allotted sold it on fake papers after which a five-storey building was built on the land.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar wondered if the ETPB was a bystander when the building was being constructed.

Chief Justice Isa observed that it would not have been possible without the involvement of the Sindh Building Control Authority.

The court said the Karachi registry’s assets should be audited by the Federal Board of Revenue.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2024

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