Pakistan

LAHORE – The allotment of 90 acres of prime land to the former chief of army staff (COAS) General (r) Raheel Sharif is not an ‘unprecedented’ or an unfamiliar thing within the military spheres.

The move, as it has been unnecessarily hyped, does not come as a new privilege granted to the former army chief but is a normal standard practice of the military establishment.

The allotment of agricultural land to serving and retired military personnel is an old and well-established practice going back to the period of British rule in India. The British rule allotted lands to

Contrary to what is being told and understood, the allotment of the land has not been granted by the incumbent government. Pakistan Army officers are rewarded with agricultural lands in lieu of their services for their country by the army itself.

The distribution of lands is directly carried out by the General Headquarters (GHQ).

The alleged valuation of the allotted land – Rs1.35 billion – is also uncontextualized and irrelevant to the matter as the land does not hold any commercial significance or status and is solely an agricultural land, and serves so. The agricultural land cannot be transferred.

The land is actually alongside Pakistan-India working boundary where neither water scarcity allowed cultivation nor any building construction could be made due to bordering areas.

The land also could not be cultivated due to no canal water being available for the land as the nearby BRB Canal is not meant to provide water to the upper channel lands.

The BRB Canal only provides water for lands in interior Punjab and not for upper channel lands across the bordering areas.

There is also no truth in allegations that the canal water would be available for land allocated to Gen Raheel Sharif, such agricultural lands are only cultivated through tubewell water or ponds.

Out of the land allotted to Gen Raheel Sharif, 20 acres of land falls in the waterlogged areas, which is of no use.

Moreover, the land is also not in one place and rather the same is divided into many parts. The rate of tenancy of land allocated to Raheel Sharif is very low.

Talking to Pakistan Today, a close aide of General Raheel Sharif quoted the retired general: “Neither I influenced anyone for allocation of land nor there is any illegality committed in the land allocation. I wonder why I was singled out while the land was also allocated to eleven of my peers the same day,” a close aide of Gen Raheel Sharif quoted him as saying.

The aide quoted the former army chief as saying that all procedure had been followed per law and there was no favour involved from any quarter.

“The matter of fact is that the land allocated to my name is scattered into four mauzas (villages) and this is not near Bedian, as is being alleged. This land is within two kilometers along the working boundary where neither an electric poll can be installed nor any building can be constructed. Under the law, armed forces many takeover such lands anytime in case of any border skirmishes or any unprovoked firing from across the border,” the aide of former army chief said.

Lt General (retd) Amjad Shoaib, confirmed to Pakistan Today that the army used to allocate lands to serving army officers and jawans from lands available alongside the bordering areas.

“These lands are vacant due to border skirmishes. Hence, these lands are neither for cultivation nor are meant for construction of any housing purposes. But the provincial governments don’t want to abandon these lands as in such cases, they are misused by criminals, thugs and smugglers. Hence, such lands are handed down to General Headquarters for allocation of lands to retired army jawans, officers and families of martyrs,” he added.

Gen Amjad added that the GHQ then distributes such lands between army, air force and navy.

“Out of the chunk for the army, the land is allocated to serving army officers, jawans and martyrs families. There are points for each officer for gallantry services and awards won during service. For instance, there are numbers for Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, etc,” he added.

“Since the working boundary alongside Kashmir is a permanent place for skirmishes between Pakistan and India, such a land would never be sold or bought for good price. Neither anyone can use such lands for housing or any other permanent business. You can’t even have electricity over there due to border situation,” he added.

He said that even the army doesn’t allow tree cutting at such lands as in case of firing or shelling from across the border, the army uses trees as shields.

“Moreover, ditches are also used by soldiers as shelters. Hence, nobody can use such lands for any peaceful profitable business,” he asserted.

Asked whether such lands are allocated to officers and jawans under the law, Gen Amjad Shoaib responded in affirmative.

“These lands are allocated to armymen under Article 268 of the Constitution. The provincial government provides such lands to the military headquarters which then divides the same between army, navy and air force. Each department then prepares lists of its officers, jawans and martyrs and then available land is allocated per criteria set by the GHQ,” he added.

Asked about the criteria, Gen Amjad said that out of army’s share, 60 percent available land is allotted to army jawans while 40 percent goes to officers.

“Out of the above mentioned shares, 15 percent land is allocated to retired officers who face financial hardships and who apply for agriculture lands while five percent share is allotted to the widows of martyrs,” he said.

He said under the laid down procedures in the army, 40 acres of land is allotted to lieutenant general while another 50 acres is allocated to the army chief. He added that out of officers’ share, 35 percent land is distributed among major-generals, 30 percent to brigadiers and etc.

“Raheel Sharif was also allotted land under the prescribed rules and regulations. He was not given any favour,” he added.

He said that it seems that the news spread about General Raheel Sharif looked to be a part of a well thought out plan to defame the army.

“It looks to be a part of an ongoing campaign by the federal and provincial governments to bring a bad name to the institution of the army. It is not against General Raheel Sharif. I see it as a part of a conspiracy. Then misleading stories were circulated about Raheel Sharif’s alleged appointment as commander of the Islamic countries’ alliance. Even while Gen Raheel was in office, baseless stories about his extension were leaked to media by officials in the government,” the former army officer maintained.

Asked how he could hurl allegations against the government, Gen Amjad Shoaib said that the calculated leak about the land allotment was viciously misleading in nature.

“You know, 11 other armymen were also allotted lands the same day Gen Raheel Sharif was allotted the land. It’s strange only Raheel Sharif has been pointed out,” he argued.