Sindh Protests Against Army’s Land Grab Mission

Sindh is rising in protest over Pakistan Army’s corporate farming land grab. The Sindh government has recently issued a notification to hand over 52000 acres to a private company MS Green Corporate Initiative. But this firm is not an ordinary private firm, it is owned by the Pakistan Army

People in Sindh are rising up to protest against the Pakistan Army’s calculated plan to grab over 52000 acres of arable land under the guise of corporate farming. The land is being granted under the umbrella of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military body that was set up by General Asim Munir in June to attract foreign investments in the country.

Political parties in the province are organising marches and conferences to highlight how the army’s move threatens the existence of Sindh. The most recent conference was held at Thatta Press Club under the banner of Awami Tehreek. A large number of writers, intellectuals, poets, lawyers, writers, political and social leaders of Sindh participated in the conference called out the land grab attempt by the army and its proxy companies.

General Asim Munir Chief of Army Staff Pakistan

The Sindh government has recently issued a notification to hand over 52000 acres to a private company MS Green Corporate Initiative. But this firm is not an ordinary private firm, it is owned by the Pakistan Army. The firm was registered in August this year with the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and around 99% of shares in the firm are held by the Pakistan army through its nominee, Major General (retd). Shahid Nazir. Nazir heads the Land Information and Management System – Center of Excellence, set up in July this year. The Centre already has collaboration with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and China on various agriculture projects.

In November this year, the firm got Rs 20 billion from the government, approved by the Economic Coordination Committee. The committee is headed by the Interim Prime Minister Anwal ul Kakhar, appointed by the Army. The army had briefed the committee that the Green Corporate Initiative had earlier got Rs 100 billion from the Punjab government along with 45000 acres of land. The total land expected to go to the army is about one million acres.

The army has already entered into partnership with another company, Unity Plantations Private Ltd, a subsidiary of Sunridge Foods Private Ltd., headed by another retired General, Lt. General Omar Mahmood Hayat. This firm, early this year, had released an app to help contain malnutrition in Pakistan.

A former Pakistan Foreign Service officer, M Alam Brohi, wrote (Daily Times December 12, 2023) how devastating the corporate farming would be on the already heavily contested water supply in the province. He argued that the corporate farming on huge tracts of land would claim a big share of the meagre irrigation water resources of Sindh. He pointed out that the province has chronically faced an acute shortage of irrigation waters for the “Rabi” season. The new corporate farming would take away a significant part of this water supply, causing serious depletion of supply to existing farmers. He dismissed the claim that water flowing into the sea downstream of Kotri Barrage would be desalinated for use as irrigation water in corporate farming. He said it was a given scientific view that a certain amount of sweet water should be allow to flow into the sea to preserve the ecosystem, mangrove forests, animal life and delta from extinction. Sindh has one of the biggest deltas in the world with mangrove forests with rare breeds of fish and other sea animals.

Without naming the Pakistan Army, the former Ambassador questioned the latest move by the army to take over a huge tract of cultivable land for corporate farming after it has already appropriated vast spaces of urban and rural lands of Sindh for Cantonments and housing schemes. He said the forcible takeover of the lands will only deepen “the sense of deprivation among the people of Sindh; lower the esteem of this great institution in the second-largest federal unit and strengthen centrifugal forces to the peril of the federation.”

The army has already occupied vast tracts of land in the name of defence housing societies, plots for the families of martyrs and retired Generals, and now under the name of farming, at least a million acres in Sindh is on the anvil.

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