Pakistan Military To Take Over One Million Acres Of Government Land For Farming

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News in brief: Pakistan military plans to acquire up to one million acres of government-owned land in the arid Cholistan Desert in the Punjab province for farming, primarily cultivating cash crops. Concerns have arisen over its increasing involvement in government administration and its potential to become the country’s largest landowner.

Pakistan Army is planning to take over large areas of government-owned land for farming in a bid to boost food production. Concerns have however been mounting over the growing presence of the military in government administration.

A news source claims that the military will acquire up to 1 million acres (or 405,000 hectares) of land in eastern Punjab province. This is three times the size of Delhi or about 5,500 times of Beijing’s Forbidden City.

The land is located in the Cholistan Desert—an arid region prone to water shortages. There is also as much as 110,000 acres of additional land for transfer in adjacent districts.

The land would be leased for up to 30 years, where the military is expected to grow cash crops such as wheat, cotton and sugarcane. Crops would also include vegetables and fruit, with 20 per cent of any profit earmarked for farming research and development. The rest is expected to be divided equally between the military and state government, according to leaked government documents.

Critics fear that the move could solidify the army’s status as the biggest landowner in Pakistan. Thus, there has been some resistance as the matter was heard in the Lahore High Court to halt the land transfer. Some believe that the land could have otherwise been used to cater for the country’s poor people, which approaches 100 million.

However that court ruling has since been overturned by another one in July this year.

The military has tasked, Fongrow, a small farming firm that it owns, to oversee the farming in the barren lands. The company provides employment for retired military personnel. According to its website, it claimed to have developed a 2,250-acre corporate farm that grows cotton and corn in Punjab.

It remains unclear if any of the land to be transferred is already being farmed or controlled by small landowners. Although, Fongrow manager Muhammad Zahid Aziz said it is unlikely because the land is typically barren.

Joseph Akahome
Joseph Akahome
Joseph O Akahome (OJ) is a writer, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Literature from the University of Benin. He is an avid agriculturist, with a bias for poultry and an insatiable appetite for chicken wings. When he is neither reading nor researching, he likes to spend recreational time playing board games, or swimming in serene forested lakes.

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