ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Friday asked the government to safeguard investments and interests of the overseas Pakistanis in the country.

The members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis at a meeting said the country was economically surviving only because of the contribution made by overseas Pakistanis. So it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that no one deprived them of their savings.

These views from the lawmakers came after briefings by two overseas Pakistanis who had invested in Pakistan but got their money stuck in a project because of litigation and bureaucratic hurdles.

Two expats say they returned to Pakistan and invested in Grand Hyatt project but are now regretting their decisions

Mohammad Nawaz Bhatti, who came back to Pakistan from the United States in 1998, informed the committee that he had brought $5 million to Pakistan. At that time, he added, the value of the dollar was Rs60 which has now almost doubled to Rs115.

“I invested in Grand Hyatt with an expectation that my investment would give me dividends. But even after over a decade I could not get the apartment I had applied for. Now the Capital Development Authority (CDA) is offering me the actual amount which I had invested in installments. When the CDA is unable to even pay its own electricity bills how it will pay billions of rupees to me and the other 240 allottees.” He said he had paid tax in the US and again in Pakistan and transferred his assets through a legal channel.

“I also paid $200,000 in the Qarz Utaro Mulk Swanro scheme in late 1990s but today my own investment is wasted. Overseas Pakistanis are scared of bringing their assets to Pakistan because of such policies,” he said.

Tariq Khan, a chartered accountant who served in the UAE, said he had also invested in the Grand Hyatt in 2008.

“I had the option to invest in UAE, USA and UK but preferred Pakistan. Before investing I had asked the CDA if it was a legal project. I was told that I should invest without any fear. I shifted to Pakistan in 2015 and since then have been living in a rented house because I could not get my apartment. My children never wanted to return to Pakistan but I always used to tell them we should go back. I purchased the apartment so that my children would come and live in Pakistan,” he said.

PPP legislator Shagufta Jumani said it was unfair to ask the overseas Pakistanis to get their original investment after 10 years.

“We should give confidence to the overseas Pakistanis that their investments would be safe in the country. Otherwise they will prefer investing in other countries,” she said.

CDA’s Member Estate Khushal Khan told the meeting that the Grand Hyatt project was launched in 2005 but after the earthquake in October that year the builder was directed to stop work as a decision had been taken to change the building codes. The number of storeys of the building was reduced from 47 to 23 and the payment was also rescheduled.

“But in 2016 the lease of the land was cancelled as the Islamabad High Court directed the CDA to get possession of the land/building and return the dues of the allotees. The builder filed an intra-court appeal and the allotees also moved the court seeking their apartments rather than the amount they had deposited.

In the meanwhile, he added, the prime minister set up a committee to decide the fate of the building. But the Supreme Court stopped the committee from working. Currently, only six of the 240 allotees have agreed to get their seed money back,” he said.

MNA Aisha Syed of Jamaat-i-Islami said no one bothers to protect the interests of overseas Pakistanis but even then they invest in Pakistan just because of their patriotism.

Sheikh Salahuddin of the MQM appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan to intervene and secure the investments of the overseas Pakistanis.

MNA Aliya Kamran of JUI-F said she had learnt that some of the apartments were gifted to judges, generals and politicians. She said one block of the building was reportedly given to a foreign intelligence agency.

But Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, the chief executive officer of Grand Hyatt, said neither any apartment had been gifted to anyone nor any intelligence agency would use the building.

Committee Chairman Mir Aamir Ali Khan Magsi said it seemed the CDA and other decision makers had some motives due to which the project was delayed.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2018

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