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ISLAMABAD: The Bahria Town Karachi on Thursday withdrew its petition challenging the May 4 Supreme Court judgement of barring its owner Malik Riaz from selling plots or constructed apartments when the court expressed its intention of constituting an implementation bench as suggested in the verdict.

A five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar that had taken up the review petition of the property tycoon, also allowed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to continue with its investigation into the exchange of precious land between the Malir Development Authority (MDA) and the Bahria Town and pick the thread from where it had left.

The May 4 judgement pertains to the grant of 9,385 acres of land in 43 Dehs, consolidated by the MDA and then handed over in 2015 to the Bahria Town, some 9km from Toll Plaza on the Karachi-Hyderabad Superhighway and at a 25-minute drive from the Jinnah International Airport.

The land was granted to the MDA for launching an incremental housing scheme. Instead, the authority exchanged it with the Bahria Town through its “henchmen” to allow the latter to launch a scheme of its own, the verdict had said, adding that the allegations levelled in the petitions moved before the Supreme Court stated that the value of the government land was far higher than the value of the private land it was exchanged for.

NAB allowed to continue with its probe into exchange of land between MDA and Bahria Town Karachi

But the apex court observed on Thursday that the implementation bench so constituted would determine the differential amount which the Bahria Town had to pay to the MDA.

During the proceedings, the court hinted at forming an implementation bench provided the petitioners withdrew their petitions, saying the bench so formed would give a timely and effective decision.

During Thursday’s hearing, the chief justice said that the implementation bench would conclude the case as early as possible, but the amount earlier furnished by the developer before the court as a guarantee would continue to remain deposited with the registrar of the court.

The chief justice observed that he was impressed with the quality of work done by the developer, but made it clear at the same time that there were problems over the acquisition of the land on which the court could not compromise.

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, representing the residents and owners of Bahria Town Karachi, suggested to the court to form an implementation bench and determine how much money the developer had to pay to the Sindh government as differential amount for the transfer of the prime land to it by the MDA.

In its May 4 judgement, the Supreme Court had asked NAB, which earlier had initiated an inquiry into the matter, to take its investigation to its logical end.

NAB was also required to collect its initial investigation report, which had been submitted to the apex court, to complete the probe in three months from the date of the announcement of the judgement.

Under the judgement, NAB has to move a reference before an accountability court against all people found responsible for causing losses to the national exchequer.

‘Encroachment’ on Kalash tribe’s land

In another development, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of reports about alleged illegal encroachment on properties belonging to Kalash tribe.

The notice was taken by the chief justice on an application of the Kalash tribesmen who stated that the tribe had been living in their area from medieval times and now had a population of about 300 people.

“We are in occupation of a common pasture and some land but one Maqsoodul Mulk wants to snatch this land from us,” the tribesmen said. “We have already filed a petition before Peshawar High Court in this regard, but still the threats persist.”

The chief justice fixed the matter for Oct 17 and issued notices to the attorney general office, chief secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, inspector general of KP police and deputy commissioner of Chitral, asking them to appear before the court.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2018