SC orders survey of land held by Bahria Town

Published November 23, 2018
A three-judge Supreme Court implementation bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, on Thursday asked the Bahria Town Karachi (BTK) to provide details of land under its possession and the layout plan of the project. — Photo courtesy of Bahria Town
A three-judge Supreme Court implementation bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, on Thursday asked the Bahria Town Karachi (BTK) to provide details of land under its possession and the layout plan of the project. — Photo courtesy of Bahria Town

ISLAMABAD: A three-judge Supreme Court implementation bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, on Thursday asked the Bahria Town Karachi (BTK) to provide details of land under its possession and the layout plan of the project.

The bench also asked the Survey of Pakistan to carry out a survey to see if there were any changes in the project land after it passed the restraining order.

The court said it did not want the developer to increase the land under possession and wanted to determine boundaries of the project.

The BTK was told to also submit the break-up of expenditure it claims has been made and the money collected from the public, warning that orders might be passed for a forensic audit in case of doubt in any figure.

The BTK management submitted to the court an affidavit claiming that no violation of its May 4 judgement had been committed

The May 4 judgement concerns with the cases involving grant of 9,385 acres of land in 43 Dehs, consolidated by the Malir Development Authority and then handed over to the Bahria Town in 2015 — about 9km from the Toll Plaza on Karachi-Hyderabad Super Highway and 25-minute drive from the Jinnah International Airport.

In its May 4 judgement, the Supreme Court held that the grant of land to the MDA by the Sindh government, its exchange with the land of the private land developers — Ms Bahria Town — and anything done under the provisions of the Colonisation of Government Land Act 1912 by the Sindh government as illegal, void ab initio and as such of no legal existence.

Besides, the saga involving ‘illegal transfer’ of the state land by the Malir Development Authority (MDA) and officials of the district revenue department took a new turn as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has traced at least 28 accounts in seven banks being used by the BTK management to collect investments from people.

The revelation has been made by NAB in a report submitted to the implementation bench of the Supreme Court formed last month by a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

The report says during the investigation it has come to record that Bahria Town Private Limited/Bahria Town Karachi collected about Rs215 billion from people up to Sept 2017 in three bank accounts — one each in the Askari Bank, United Bank Limited and Meezan Bank. However, later, it transpired that at least 28 different accounts in seven banks were being used for this purpose. Besides the three banks already mentioned, accounts are also being maintained at Bank Al-Falah, Allied Bank, Habib Bank and Faysal Bank, the report discloses and says letters to these banks have been issued for provision of up-to-date details of the accounts and their statements.

The report says the evidence collected during the investigation has found that 20 public office-holders and officials of the Sindh government misused their authority to give unfair advantage to the beneficiaries and their front-men. These include two politicians and 18 officers and officials of the provincial government. The report puts the number of beneficiaries and front-men at eight.

It says notices have been issued to the two politicians and 18 government functionaries for providing them final opportunity of being heard. Two government officers and six beneficiaries did not join investigation and are reported to be abroad. The secretary of the Services and General Administration division has now been asked for serving call-up notices and also to furnish their ex-Pakistan leave details for further proceeding.

At the request of NAB, the report says, the national space agency — Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) — has arranged for the satellite images of the land on which BTK project was under development up to Jan 2018. The satellite images establish beyond any doubt that development of the BKT project has continued against the restraining order passed by the apex court.

The report says Suparco has also been asked by NAB to obtain latest satellite images of the project for necessary action.

It says the determination of total loss caused to the national exchequer depends on various factors, including completion of the survey to identify exact area of land under the BTK’s possession and missing approvals.

The report also says the NAB has received various complaints from people regarding cancellation and non-allotment of plots despite regular payment of installments.

The land was granted for launching incremental housing scheme. But instead of launching the scheme, the MDA exchanged it with the Bahria Town to enable it to launch a scheme of its own, the judgement had held.

The MDA was created through the Malir Development Authority Act 1993 for development of certain areas of Karachi division.

During the last hearing, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, representing the BTK, had claimed that the developer had invested over Rs500bn to develop the housing scheme in the name of the Bahria Town whereas Rs213bn was still outstanding or due in the shape of instalments.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2018

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