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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) to develop in the next five years over 11,000 plots in a scheme in Lahore which were offered for sale in the market under its banner.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar directed that the scheme be handed over to the DHA to provide relief to the 11,716 affected people. Around 60,000 individuals have been looted in the name of the scheme in Lahore and those behind the scam fled after defrauding the people to the tune of Rs13 billion.

The bench, which had taken up the multi-billion-rupee financial scam on a suo motu, also ordered conducting rendition of accounts between the DHA and the Eden Garden Housing Scheme (EGHS) Lahore after setting aside all the agreements signed between the two developers. The EGHS had launched the housing scheme in the name of DHA.

Is it job of armed forces to develop housing societies, asks CJP

While reserving its ruling on the issue, the apex court also hinted at constituting an implementation bench after the final order. It asked the suspects currently under the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to approach relevant forums.

The housing schemes launched by the EGHS are already under the scrutiny of NAB. Dr Murtaza Amjad, the son-in-law of former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and chief executive officer of the Eden Housing Limited, fled the country after the scam surfaced.

Barrister Khurram and a representative of the DHA explained before the court that the DHA had limited role in the scam as it sold its name in exchange for 30 per cent of the total shares in the 25,000-kanal project.

But the chief justice regretted that the name of DHA was used and that the human rights cell of the apex court had so far received 109,000 complaints in this regard. “Is it the job of the armed forces to develop housing societies?” the chief justice wondered, asking the counsel to name any country where the army operated housing schemes.

The job of the armed forces was to protect the country’s borders, and not to indulge in commercial activities, the court observed. It would have been understandable had the DHA done this for martyrs and widows, it said.

When the court was told by the DHA representative that the Malaysian army also operated housing schemes in their country, the chief justice wondered whether they had only this model to follow.

The name of DHA had been stained every time they launched housing schemes, the chief justice observed, adding that they bought disputed and controversial lands and by doing this they sold their goodwill. He regretted that it seemed that the DHA ran their business by using the names of widows and martyrs as a shield to pocket royalties in their names.

The court also hinted that it might issue an order for the DHA to acquire the land from the EGHS and make payments for the lands Eden Housing gave to the DHA.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

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