SC questions role of army in 'property deals'

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, while hearing a suo motu case regarding the removal of billboards in Lahore, questioned the role of Pakistan Army in "property deals".

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar asked since when the army had been involved in property deals, and questioned how the army was building housing societies.

"If the army wants to make housing societies, they should make them for their own people. But they make plots and start selling them to average people," he said during the hearing.

The CJP said that "billions of rupees" are earned from the allotment and transfer of land, asking where the Defence Housing Authority's (DHA) "billions of rupees" go. No spokesperson from DHA was present at the court.

The top judge inquired if the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) was putting up billboards, to which Naheed Gul Baloch, additional director general of the PHA, said: "We have not put up even one billboard."

The additional DG told the court that in 2010, the authority removed 1,304 billboards and there were no PHA billboards on the streets, nor had anyone asked them for permission to put up billboards.

Baloch said that cases had been registered against their employees the one odd time that they did remove the billboards, adding that all billboards had been put up around the Pakistan Railways, National Logistics Cell (NLC), National Highway Authority (NHA), Cantonment and Defence areas. To this, the CJP asked: "Are these areas not your subsidiaries?"

The additional DG said that there was also an ongoing PHA litigation regarding the issue, and that the organisations had said that they would face the case in court themselves.

The CJP observed that there were banners of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf or Punjab governor-designate Chaudhry Sarwar's face on every lamppost along Lahore's Mall Road.

"Who gave them permission to put up the banners?" the top judge asked, adding that the Lahore mayor should be informed of the matter and have them removed.

Latif Khosa, lawyer for the Cantonment Board, said that 30 per cent of Cantonment Hospital’s expenditure came from billboards. He said that the Cantt doesn’t get any funding from the government and bears the expenses for providing citizens with amenities.

Baloch said that the PHA doesn't take any funds for the renovations of parks.

"Does not taking funds mean you can open a casino [to make money]?" asked the CJP.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that boards playing advertisement videos ─ which pose a distraction to drivers ─ had also been erected.

The Supreme Court issued a notice to DHA Lahore, and asked DHA, the Cantt boards, Pakistan Railways and the NLC to submit a reply within 10 days and explain who gave permission to put up the billboards.

The court asked the Lahore Commissioner to issue a notice to all organisations to remove the billboards.

"If the notice is not acted upon, the Commissioner Lahore should inform the court," said the CJP.

The hearing of the case was postponed till the last week of September.



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