LHC suspends order against transfer of land to Army for corporate farming

Facade of the Lahore High Court building.  - LHC website
Facade of the Lahore High Court building. – LHC website
  • The court had earlier ruled that the army cannot be involved in corporate farming.
  • The court, maintained by the Punjab government, cannot regulate agricultural policies.
  • The order was issued by a two-member LHC bench headed by Justice Najafi.

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday suspended an order of the same court that had stayed the transfer of land to the Pakistan Army for corporate farming on a 20-year lease.

The order came when a two-judge bench headed by Justice Ali Bakar Najafi heard the Punjab government’s plea seeking to set aside the decision of the single-judge bench of the LHC.

The Punjab government said the complainant – a Lahore-based lawyer – was not an affected party and said it was not the court’s job to regulate agricultural policies.

A single-judge bench of the LHC, headed by Justice Abid Hussain Chatha, had in June declared illegal the leasing of land to the Pakistan Army for corporate farming, noting that the armed forces had no constitutional mandate to engage in corporate farming. And there was no legal mandate.

Justice Chatha also said in a written judgment that the caretaker government of Punjab has no constitutional authority to allot land for corporate farming.

The Punjab government had notified the allotment of over 45,267 acres of Punjab land to the Army in three districts – Bhakkar, Khushab and Sahiwal – for a corporate agriculture farming project.

The allocation came after the Pakistan Army’s Director General of Strategic Projects on 8 February wrote to the Board of Revenue in Punjab requesting 1 million acres of state land in Punjab for “corporate agricultural farming”.

In the letter, seen by geo newsThe Pakistani military described rising oil and food prices as a serious challenge to Pakistan’s economy and its agricultural sector, arguing that it had experience in developing “barren wastelands”.

For the project, the Army proposed an immediate release of 10,000 to 15,000 acres of irrigated land, followed by another 100,000 acres by March 1 and the remaining 1 million acres by April.

A month later, the governor of Punjab and the Pakistan Army signed a joint venture agreement to lease one million acres of state land in Punjab to the army for corporate agricultural farming for a period of 20 years.

The agreement also finalized a profit-sharing mechanism, under which 20% of the profit earned from the venture would be used for research and development, while the remaining profit would be split 50-50 between the Punjab government and the Army.

In the judgment, the LHC calculated that the 1 million acres of land in the province was “about 2% of the total area of ​​Punjab”.

But none of this information was made public, until an official notification dated March 10 started circulating on social media, which revealed that the Punjab government had given 45,267 acres of state land in Bhakkar, Khushab and Sahiwal to the Army for corporate purposes. decided to hand over. Farming.

Soon after the notification was made public, Lahore-based lawyers Fahad Malik and Rafe Alam, representing the NGO Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan, filed a petition in the LHC challenging the government’s decision.

He argued that the grant of land by the Caretaker Government was “unconstitutional and illegal”, as the Caretaker Government’s scope was limited to carrying out day-to-day operations, and Pakistan’s constitution did not allow the military to undertake commercial operations. enterprise.

In a press conference held on 25 April, Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry, director general of Inter-Services Public Relations, the media wing of the army, was asked about the army’s attempt to acquire state land for corporate farming.

He replied that developing and developed countries have used their armies, in some way or the other, to improve their agricultural sector, but he also asked what role the army can play in making the land more arable , The final decision about this belonged to the provincial and provincial. Federal Govt.

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