The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday issued its detailed judgment on planned construction in the Margalla Hills National Park, ruling the Pakistan Army has no power or jurisdiction to, “directly or indirectly,” engage in business ventures of any nature outside its composition or to claim the ownership of state land.
Declaring the Navy Golf Course illegal, the judgment instructs the Defense Ministry to conduct an inquiry into its construction and directs the secretary of defense to conduct a forensic audit to assess any damage to the national exchequer. “Since the command and control of the armed forces vests in the federal government, therefore, no branch can undertake any activity or perform functions outside their respective establishments unless expressly directed or called upon to do so. The unique responsibilities have been prescribed under the Constitution and, therefore, obedience to the provisions ibid and law is an inviolable obligation of every branch and member of the armed forces as provided under Article 5,” it said.
Authored by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, the ruling also rejected the Pakistan Army Directorate’s claim of ownership over 8,068 acres of land in the National Park and declared as illegal a lease agreement between the Monal Restaurant and the Farms Directorate of the Pakistan Army.
“It is the responsibility of the state to take action against those who violate the fundamental rights of the people, however, it is ironic that state institutions are also involved in desecrating the Margalla Hills protected area,” read the judgment, stressing that the state has a duty to protect the Margalla Hills and take steps to repair the damage done to it and prevent further destruction. It ruled the Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Army had violated the law by taking it into their own hands, thereby weakening the rule of law.
The detailed judgment was issued nearly six months after a short order—issued on Jan. 11—had declared the allotment of 8,068 acres of land to the Pakistan Army in the Margalla Hills National Park against the law. Finding the allocation in violation of “the Ordinance of 1979 read with the Ordinance of 1960 and the Master Plan,” it had said the granting of land had also been in violation of enforced laws applicable to the management of lands for the use of the armed forces.