ISLAMABAD, June 7: Troubles are said to come in threes. And this stands true for property tycoon Malik Riaz.
The man with the Midas touch is not just facing some mysterious health issues and a Supreme Court case about his alleged links with Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, but his troubles appear to include an initial probe by the National Accountability Bureau in what is described by some as a land scam worth Rs62 billion.
The scam is linked to allegations levelled by a former military officer Tariq Kamal against Riaz and the Defence Housing Authority for depriving about 150,000 people of their residential plots.
When asked by Dawn if NAB’s Rawalpindi office had received any application about Bahria Town’s alleged land fraud, the bureau’s spokesman Zafar Iqbal said: “The investigations are in preliminary stages and we are verifying the claim made by the former military officer. Once the claim is verified, the investigation will be the second part of the process.”
Lt-Col (retd) Tariq Kamal has been raising a hue and cry for quite some time but observers are wondering whether the case may get a new impetus thanks to the Supreme Court’s suo motu action into allegations that Arsalan Iftikhar took bribe from Malik Riaz.
According to Col Tariq, “the Defence Housing Authority Islamabad has been receiving money in the name of allotment of plots in DHA Phase I Extension, DHA Phase II Extension and DHA Valley since 2009.”
The schemes were launched that year by the Defence Housing Authority.
“DHA-I and DHA-II are developed housing societies, but DHA Valley is yet to be developed,” Col Tariq said.
However, he said, people who had paid money to get the plots found that they were fooled because they were deliberately kept in dark by the DHA management about the agreement between DHA-I and Bahria Town over land development.
Col Tariq said that in 2009 the DHA had “transferred all the funds raised from the public, which were Rs62 billion, to the accounts of Bahria Town”.
The retired colonel has worked for the DHA as director for urban planning.
Since starting his campaign to get dues of the victims back, Col Tariq has also set up a social networking site page. Titled “Stand-up for your Right”, where the former officer narrated his version of events as well as displayed copies of the official complaint registered with a local police station and a letter sent to NAB.
Col Tariq said: “Those who got cheated include 110,000 civilians, 41,000 serving and retired military officers, jawans and families of martyrs. Total land in question is 165,000 kanals.” These figures related only to DHA Valley project.
According to this page, Malik Riaz started development activity on 10,000 kanals designated for DHA Valley in 2009.
Once this process began, the Defence Housing Authority Islamabad (DHAI) bosses transferred Rs62 billion into the account of Malik Riaz without any guarantee and “against the advice of DHAI legal advisers Ahmer Bilal Soofi & Co.” The amount was earned by the sale of all the planned plots in the valley.
Col Tariq said: “Those DHAI employees who objected to the illegal steps were sacked immediately.”
He alleged that the development of the valley stopped shortly afterwards and that Riaz used the money elsewhere for his personal benefits.
Because of the agreements, DHAI is unable to take any decision or action on the matter.
Col Tariq insists that an investigation should be carried out to pinpoint the officials who misused their authority and “compromised DHAI’s reputation to benefit a property tycoon widely known for land grabbing”. When approached by this reporter, the public relations officer of Bahria Town, Ms Nida, said: “It’s a huge amount (Rs62 billion) and it’s impossible but if you need a version I can only give it to you once I consult the relevant officials in this regard.”