FOR many years it was an open secret in Lahore, discussed in living rooms and other settings, that the brother of the then army chief was involved in massive land deals around the city, particularly in contracts with Defence Housing Authority, Lahore.
Last year, we heard for the first time that the National Accountability Bureau had served notice on the man in question, Kamran Kayani, for having sold allotment certificates for DHA land in Islamabad to be acquired and developed by him but failing to deliver on his commitments.
Notice was reportedly served on him at the time, and when no response was received, the matter was quietly dropped and fell out of the headlines.
Now he is once again in the headlines, this time in Lahore.
Once again it is in a NAB case, although notice has not yet been served and word suggests he is no longer in the country to receive one.
And once again, it is for failing to live up to his contractual obligation to acquire and develop 15,000 kanals of land for DHA City Lahore, a contract he apparently obtained in 2009.
NAB has confirmed that a formal inquiry has been authorised in their Lahore office against two companies, Globaco (pvt) Ltd of one Hammad Arshad, and Elysium Holdings of Kamran Kayani. Common sense tells us that DHA Lahore, which is the complainant in the case, would not move on this matter without authorisation from higher offices in the military.
The complaint is serious: that Rs16bn worth of allotment letters were sold to the general public, the money transferred into Mr Arshad’s own account, and from there forwarded on to his benefactors and partners in the enterprise.
The episode reminds us all that corruption, whether real or alleged, is not necessarily the exclusive preserve of the politicians.
We must ask if it was a coincidence that both inquiries, in Islamabad and Lahore, were launched only after Mr Kayani’s brother had relinquished the office of army chief.
And although there is no evidence at all to suggest that the former army chief was in the know of such dealings, the very fact that the two were related may lead to scepticism.
The sheer rapacity of the snatch-and-grab land acquisition and development scene that has broken out in the country over the past decade is quite a spectacle.
The lingering presence of senior military officials, of an institution like the DHA, and now of personalities linked to the highest offices make for troubling thoughts.
The present case should not be allowed to quietly disappear from the headlines.
The investigating authorities must be pressured to get to the bottom of this affair, and of others where property developers may have reason to believe that they have enough clout to allow them to indulge in unethical dealings.
Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2016