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LAHORE: As the National Accountability Bureau, Lahore, has detected `illegalities’ in a land deal involving Paragon Housing Society reportedly developed by Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique and the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC), it (NAB) has summoned a former head of LDA and two top officials of the society on Thursday (today).

“The NAB has summoned LDA’s former DG Ahad Cheema, chief executive officer of Paragon City Nadeem Zia and Director of Paragon Exchange Ali Sajjad for Thursday (today) to record their statements in the land deal in which some illegalities have been detected,” an official told Dawn on Wednesday. He said Mr Cheema had been summoned as the ‘shady’ deal was signed when he was head of the LDA. At present, Mr Cheema is the chief of two Punjab power companies.

The NAB has recently launched investigation into the contract agreement signed between the PLDC and M/s Anhui Construction Engineering Group owned by Director Paragon Exchange Ali Sajjad, M/s Bismillah Engineering Company owned by chief executive of Paragon City Nadeem Zia and M/s Sparco Group for construction of a housing project - Ashiana Iqbal Lahore -- under the public-private partnership.

Two Paragon officials also summoned

The NAB has received a number of complaints regarding the ‘illegal deal’ involving 3,000 kanal government land between the PLDC and the said companies.

“The PLDC and other companies have provided copies of the contract agreement and other relevant record of the project,” a source said, adding NAB was probing acquisition of some 128 kanal land adjacent to the Paragon Housing Society from farmers on throwaway prices.

The PLDC had signed an agreement with Bismillah Engineering and Sparco for construction of 6,700 apartments on 1,000 kanals. In lieu of this construction, some 2,000 kanals were to be given to these two companies. These companies were to be given land corresponding to their construction work whereas the entire piece of land was given in possession of these companies without getting any construction work done.

According to the Land Disposal Act, a land measuring beyond five marla cannot be sold without auction. “But in this case gross violation has been committed as both companies were to deposit 20 per cent of the total value which they did not,” a source said.

The Colonies Department of the Punjab government had also specifically maintained that if this land was not utilised for the scheme (Ashiana Iqbal) it would be surrendered back to the department as the government land could not be used for any other purpose.

The source said only 200 apartments have been built so far while the affected persons had paid four-year’s installments.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2017