ISLAMABAD - In a suo motu hearing regarding billboards and hoardings at different places of Lahore, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar Tuesday questioned the role of Pakistan Army in the real estate business.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, took up the suo motu notice for hearing.

The CJP observed the top court would regulate the installation of billboards and the regulation would be extended to the entire country.

As the hearing commenced, the chief justice inquired if the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) was installing billboards. PHA Additional Director General Naheed Gul Baloch responded the authority had not put up a single billboard or hoarding of any kind in Lahore. Instead, Baloch added, the authority had removed 1,304 billboards. There were neither any PHA billboards on streets nor had anyone sought permission in this regard.

Baloch further said all billboards had been put up around Pakistan Railways, National Logistic Cell (NLC), National Highway Authority (NHA) and cantonment as well as defence areas.

Baloch maintained there was also PHA’s litigation regarding the issue and vowed the organisation would face the case in the court.

Latif Khosa, representing a party in the case, contended 30 percent of cantonment hospitals’ expenditures were being generated from the billboards. “The cantonment doesn’t get any funding from the government and bears the expenses for providing facilities to the citizens,” he added.

The chief justice asked about real estate deals involving DHA. He also questioned how the army was managing housing societies. “If the army wishes to make housing societies, they must do so for their own employees and martyred soldiers,” observed the CJP, adding they established societies and started selling them to the common citizens.

He further observed billions of rupees were earned from the allotment and transfer of land. He asked where the billions of rupees generated from DHA had gone.

During the hearing, the chief justice also expressed displeasure over the banners bearing politicians’ pictures. He observed there were banners of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Chaudhry Sarwar on every lamppost alongside The Mall, Lahore.

The chief justice questioned who permitted them to install the banners, adding the Lahore mayor should be informed of the matter and have them removed.

Justice Bandial also made observations and remarked digital billboards or hoardings had also been erected and these were the cause of diverting attention of drivers.

Later, the bench issued notices to DHA Lahore, Cantonment Board, Pakistan Railways and the NLC, directing to submit their reply within 10 days as to who gave them permission to erect the billboards. The court also asked the Lahore commissioner to issue a notice to all organisations to remove the billboards.

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