ISLAMABAD, May 7: For the last six years the civic agency of Islamabad has failed to reclaim the prime land along Islamabad Expressway that was gradually taken over by the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and sold out.
According to senior officials in the Capital Development Authority (CDA), in 2005 the DHA started taking over the prime land in Humak, Sihala and Rawat, which was acquired by the civic agency back in 1963-65 to develop the Islamabad Expressway and an industrial area.
The land was then sold to Bahria Town. It was not until sometimes later in 2006-07 when villagers of these localities registered complaints with the CDA against the occupation.
However, it was too late by the time the CDA started pursuing the matter. Documents available with Dawn show how the DHA then committed to the civic agency in 2006-07 that it would compensate it by allotting about 700 kanals of developed 500 square-yard plots each against nearly 2,500 kanals of undeveloped land it had taken over.
But how the land exchange deal between the two authorities was reached in 2006-07 was unclear because there was no provision in the CDA by-laws to share land.
This was why senior officials in the civic agency saw a flaw right there. “That was their trick. This is millions of rupees worth prime property along the highway. Instead of buying the land, they gave us land in exchange,” said a senior official in the CDA directorate of land.
The reason officials found the deal dodgy was the fact that the 500 square-yard plots that the DHA had offered in exchange at its Phase II Extension project only existed on papers.
“The Phase II extension project of DHA has been shelved. The files are worthless because the property is as undeveloped today as it was six or seven years back,” a source said, explaining how the land acquired by the CDA was worth lots more than the value of the 700-plus kanals offered by the DHA in exchange.
The documents also showed how the authoritative DHA wanted to compensate the Capital Development Authority at the same rate the lands were acquired back in 1963 and 1965 instead of the current market rate.
Under directions from the chief justice of Pakistan, who had taken notice of the case, a sessions judge conducted an inquiry into the matter in January, 2010.
The inquiry officer raised objections to the values of properties being exchanged and the fact that the DHA had decided to transfer less plots to the CDA than what had actually being agreed upon.
Worst still, the CDA failed to follow up on the offer given by the DHA. “We lost key properties in 2006-07. And there has been no correspondence since then by CDA with DHA. The Capital Development Authority had decided that the 700 plus kanals offered by the DHA could be auctioned to generate revenues,” explained an official in the CDA planning wing.
The Cabinet Division, which overlooks and supervises operations of the CDA, described the delay in pursuing the case with Defence Housing Authority since last six years as, ‘Glaring act of fraud, mischief, daytime robbery at CDA, causing severe loss to the national exchequer’.
In a recent Board meeting, the CDA chairman directed the member estate and member planning, director estate management and the directorate land to confirm the status and location of the plots allocated by the Defence Housing Authority.
“We are trying to ascertain the status of the case,” said Tahir Shahbaz, the CDA chairman.
Elaborating on why the CDA was revisiting the case, he said: “It was a fraudulent deal from the start. They took prime property from the CDA and gave us land that will probably fetch the authority peanuts.”
The case had been referred to the planning wing to contact the DHA through the director land survey for verification of the site and status of the plots to prepare a comprehensive report.
The documents show how in Sihala the CDA had acquired more than 530 acres in 1963 and 1965.
In Rawat, the total land measuring more than 135 acres was acquired for Islamabad Highway in 1963. And in Humak, 768 acres was acquired to establish an industrial area.
When contacted, the public relations section of the DHA declined to comment.