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Defense secretary earns Supreme Court’s ire over commercial use of cantonment land

KARACHI: “We have decided not to allow the use of cantonment land for commercial uses in the future,” the Secretary of Defense, retired Lt Gen Mian Hilal Hussain, summoned before a three-member Supreme Court bench, assured an irate Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Friday. 

The apex court bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar, has been hearing a case related to the conversion of cantonment land for private and commercial use. 

A day earlier, the chief justice had ordered the defense secretary to appear before the court to answer questions related to the case. 

When asked to submit a written report on military lands that had been converted for private or commercial use, the defense secretary asked the court for some time to do so. 

“You were given land, but what are you using it for?” Justice Gulzar asked the defense secretary. 

“This land was provided to you for strategic and defense purposes. You, on the other hand, are using it for commercial ventures,” he noted. 

“You have built wedding halls, cinemas and housing societies on it,” added the chief justice. 

“We have decided not to let this happen in the future,” the official assured in response. 

At this, the secretary was scolded by Justice Qazi Amin. 

“What do you mean [by that]? Every [commercial] activity [already occurring] on cantonment land will also need to end,” he added.  

“You’re sitting in Islamabad, how can you know anything about what is happening here [in Karachi]?” wondered the chief justice. 

“Go visit all the cantonment areas and notify them that the land will henceforth only be used for strategic and defense purposes,” he ordered. 

“The Masroor and Kaemari bases have been converted into commercial [land],” remarked the chief justice. 

“When we instructed the [authorities] to take down signboards, they instead erected tall buildings behind them,” he said.

After hearing the defense secretary, the chief justice sought a written statement and adjourned proceedings of the case till Tuesday, November 30. 

The case will next be heard in Islamabad.

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