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Data on Army's Golf Courses Released in Senate

Special SAT Report

ISLAMABAD, July 13: The latest craze of Pakistan’s military Generals is to play Golf and convert State lands into Golf Courses all over the country. Data released in the Parliament proves this shocking reality.

Army authorities have converted hundreds of acres of military farm lands into golf courses for pleasure and leisure activities of senior uniformed officials since 1999. These golf courses are in addition to those made on Railway lands, especially in Lahore where the cost was an unbelievable Rs 25 billion.

The information about turning military farm lands into golf courses, housing schemes and commercial projects since 1999 was brought on public record in the Senate when Senator Rukhsana Zuberi asked pointed questions.

Information provided by the Defence Minister, Rao Sikander Iqbal, confirmed that 307 acres of military farms lands were so converted.

The minister embarrassingly did not reveal the maintenance cost of each golf course and thousands of gallons of water used daily to maintain the lush green grass for the Generals to tee off, while people die of water shortages or drinking contaminated water in various parts of the country.

Similarly Auditor General's reports have also identified similar undertakings of the army for pleasure of senior officers. Information provided by the Defence Ministry to the Senate showed that since 1999, 24.5 acres of military land was converted into golf course in Attock. In Sargodha 60 acres of military land was converted into a golf course.

The Defence Minister also informed the House that army housing schemes were launched on military farm lands on an area measuring 222 acres.

The Senate was told that 36.96 acres of military dairy farm Chaklala in Rawalpindi was converted into a housing scheme. In Lahore, 133.96 acres of land belonging to military dairy farms were converted into housing schemes since 1999. In Sialkot, the authorities converted 51.2 acres of military dairy farm land into a housing society.

Shockingly enough the shameful plunder of Pakistan's resources by the generals does not stop here. The Defence Minister in response to a question by senator Dr Nighat Agha said that the record pertaining to the terms and conditions on which the Varan Bus Service was given a terminal in the Cantonment Area of Rawalpindi on a land measuring 2.42 acres "was not available in the Military Estate Office Rawalpindi."

The Defence Minister also told the Senate that Varan Bus Service, owned by the daughter of Lt Gen (Retd) Hamid Gul, a self-proclaimed ideologue of the Right, was causing environmental pollution in the area for which no effective measures have been adopted by the owners of the terminals.

Perhaps to avoid accountability of such nature where the facts are revealed before the public, the defence forces do not allow the democratic system to flourish in Pakistan.

If democracy flourishes, how would the generals justify the expenditure of millions of rupees on golf courses to the public representatives when millions are burdened by abject poverty and hundreds committing suicides due to hopelessness.

While the government run by Gen Musharraf has spent millions on leisure and pleasure activities of the senior uniformed officials since 1999, their own Finance Minister admitted in the latest Economic Survey that 50 million people, some 32 per cent of the population, were living on just Rs848 per month or almost $14 per month.

Ironically when the poor babies in millions of households of Pakistan cry for a piece of bread or a glass of milk, the Generals play golf on the lush green lawns. The disparity is glaring and provocative.

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