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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday questioned the federal government for going beyond its mandate to regularise an illegal lease of land for the Grand Hyatt hotel.

IHC Justice Athar Minallah, while hearing a petition filed by affected buyers, expressed displeasure over the committee constituted to compensate those who had bought luxury apartments built on the aforementioned land.

In March last year, Justice Minallah had declared the construction of luxury apartments on land meant for serviced rooms of the luxury Grand Hyatt hotel to be illegal, and upheld the CDA’s cancellation of a lease of 13.5 acres of land for the project.

Order declaring lease illegal is still valid; committee was constituted to compensate buyers, not builders, Justice Minallah says

He has also constituted a committee that consists of the cabinet and Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) secretaries, the law and justice secretary and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to consider matters related to the compensation of buyers.

The committee was reconstituted by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who appointed Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali as its head. Led by Mr Ali, the committee has floated a proposal to regularise the lease to BNP and asked for the CDA’s input in this regard.

It referred the matter to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which subsequently dropped the charges against former CDA chairman Kamran Lashari, former CDA board members and the owner of BNP, paving the way for the regularisation of the lease.

A de novo inquiry was also carried out by the FIA, which was approved by the agency’s director general Bashir Ahmed Memon, which cleared the influential former bureaucrats implicated in the case as well as the owner of the firm.

A letter from Mr Memon to the attorney general dated Feb 20, 2018 stated: “An impartial inquiry was conducted by Capt. (retird) Mohammad Shoaib (PSP) in the subject case.

“The enquiry officer has concluded that the investigation team could not substantiate the allegations of fraud, abuse of power and authority, forgery, criminal breach of trust, impersonation or cheating against the accused person Mr Kamran Lashari, former chairman CDA, Mr Kamran Qureshi, former member finance CDA, Habibur Rehman Gillani, former director estate CDA and Abdul Hafeez Sheikh chief executive officer M/s BNP.”

During Wednesday’s hearing, Justice Minallah said the de novo inquiry had been authorised in violation of the IHC order.

He said the order that declared the lease illegal was still valid, and the court had only mandated the committee to compensate affected buyers, not the builders.

The affected buyers include Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, former State Bank governor Mohammad Ashraf Wathra, former Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority chairman Absar Alam, former chief justice Nasirul Mulk, former Lahore High Court chief justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry, Minister Jam Kamal Khan, former naval chief Mohammad Asif Sandila, former foreign secretary Salman Bashir, retired Lt Gen Ahsan Azhar Hayat, television personality Faryal Gauhar, former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani, former defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar, the son of the incumbent defence minister Khawaja Mohammad Asas, the federal ombudsperson against workplace harassment Kashmala Tariq and Saqib Barjees, the son of federal minister Barjees Tahir.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2018