ISLAMABAD: A golf club belonging to Pakistan’s military was closed yesterday after a court ruled it encroached on national park land in the capital and breached environment regulations. In a rare ruling against the country’s powerful armed forces, judge Athar Minallah said Tuesday that the navy had “illegally” established Margalla Greens Golf Club, an 18-hole course adjacent to the country’s top military university.

The course, which opened in 2010, also abuts the Margalla Hills National Park in a range of Himalayan foothills that partly ring Islamabad. Pakistan has been ruled by the military for roughly half its 74-year history, and court decisions against the powerful institution are almost unheard of. But only last year the Supreme Court questioned the use of military land for commercial projects and demanded a policy document signed by the chiefs of the three armed forces of the country.

The military holds vast sway over many aspects of commercial, cultural and political life. Last year a United Nations report said it owned “the largest conglomerate of business entities in Pakistan”, as well as being the country’s biggest urban real estate developer and manager, with wide-ranging involvement in public construction projects.

Tuesday’s court ruling ordered the golf course to be sealed and handed over to the Capital Development Authority and Islamabad Wildlife Management Board. It said it should be demolished within four weeks unless it can be used for “an environmentally friendly activity”. A popular restaurant in the Margalla hills — on land the army claimed it owned and leased out commercially — was given a similar fate.

Mazher Allahyar, general manager of the Monal Restaurant, said they were considering challenging the court ruling, which he said would lead to job losses for around 600 people. Pakistan has around 50 golf courses — many built on military land — but the sport is largely exclusive and played mostly by the wealthy or top brass of the armed forces.

Tuesday’s ruling was greeted with glee by some activists on social media. The judge was hitting the military where it “matters most to them”, wrote one, followed by emojis of a money bag and a pile of dollars. The Margalla Hills National Park is home to hundreds of different bird species as well as dozens of types of mammals and reptiles. – AFP