LHC suspends decision of handing over agricultural land to army

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A two-member bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) suspended the decision of a single bench to hand over agricultural land to the army.

A two-member bench headed by Justice Ali Baqir Najafi heard the appeal filed by the Punjab government.

In the petition filed by the Punjab government, it was said that there is a contradiction in the decision of the single bench, the petitioner is not an aggrieved party, and it is not the responsibility of the courts to regulate agricultural policies.

The Punjab government said that the single bench declared the notification of giving land to the army as null and void contrary to the law, according to the law, the caretaker government can complete any incomplete step or policy of the previous government, this project was started by the elected government before, not the caretaker government.

Background of the case:

On February 8 this year, the Director General Strategic Projects of the Pakistan Army wrote a letter to the Board of Revenue in Punjab, requesting to give up to one million acres of government land in Punjab for “corporate agriculture farming”.

In the letter, the Pakistani military described rising oil and food prices as a serious challenge to Pakistan’s economy and its agricultural sector, saying it had the experience of developing “wastelands”.

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

A month later, the Governor of Punjab and the Pakistan Army signed a joint venture under which up to one million acres of government land in Punjab would be leased to the army for a period of 20 years for corporate agriculture farming.

Soon after the Punjab government’s notification in this regard came to light, lawyers from Lahore challenged the government’s decision on behalf of an NGO and filed a petition in the Lahore High Court.

The petition contended that the provision of land by the caretaker government was “unconstitutional and illegal”, as the scope of the caretaker government was limited to day-to-day operations and that the Constitution of Pakistan did not allow the army to undertake commercial projects.

Single bench decides to give government land to Army:

In March, a single bench of the Lahore High Court restrained the army from leasing government land for corporate agriculture farming for 30 years.

In a 134-page verdict in June, a one-member bench wrote that neither the interim government of Punjab has a constitutional mandate to allot land for corporate farming nor does Pakistan’s armed forces have a constitutional and legal mandate to do corporate farming.