MULTAN: A joint investigation team (JIT), probing into the illegal transfer of 14,398 acres of the Pakpattan Auqaf in 1986 by then Punjab chief minister Nawaz Sharif, has finalised its terms of reference (ToR) for inquiry on the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP), Dawn has learnt.

On Dec 27, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, appointed Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Director General Dr Hussain Asghar head of the JIT. Other two members of the JIT are from the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau.

Sources said that seven ToRs for the probe are: the JIT will probe whether the chief minister had legal authority to make such decision in the presence of clear directions and orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and other courts of competent jurisdiction; if the chief minister was not authorised to issue such decisions, which were in contradiction with the directions/orders of the LHC and other courts of competent jurisdiction, apart from the chief minister, who was responsible for the execution of such unlawful act and who were subsequent beneficiaries; what jurisdiction was vested in district administration in respect of any land that is attached with some shrine or is held by the Auqaf Department; who are the direct and indirect beneficiaries of withdrawal of notification of Aug 28, 1986 by the Auqaf Department; what is the present status of the land loss to the government exchequer by illegally selling the Auqaf property (if any); who are responsible for non implementation of the notification of Dec 17, 1969 of the Auqaf Department and whether any efforts were made by the Auqaf Department regarding the implementation of notification as well as vacation of the said land?

Up to 8,273 acres was attached with the shrine of Baba Fariduudin in Pakpattan and the then first class judge of Montgomery in a decision in a suit No60/1935 for succession between Dewan Ghulam Rasool and Ghulam Qutbuddin’ declared the land is the property of Auqaf Department on Dec 12, 1938; the judgment was, however, not implemented in revenue record.

In 1960, when the chief land commissioner initiated proceedings under the Martial Law Regulation No 64, the Auqaf Department referred the matter to the provincial chief land commissioner. Qutabuddin, the caretaker of the shrine, approached the Auqaf Department to save the land from being taken back and offered to surrender 6,300 acres to the department. By issuing notification No3(4)-Auqaf-60-1 on Jan 17, 1961, the Auqaf department took over the possession of 5,418.75 acres and 975.125 acres in Pakpattan and Bahawalnagar districts, respectfully.

The notification was not challenged by anyone and the Auqaf department after getting approval from the Punjab governor issued another notification on Dec 17, 1969 to take over the remaining 1,800 acres in Pakpattan but this time Qutabuddin challenged the notification in the court of district and sessions judge of Sahiwal which was dismissed on May 18, 1977. The petitioner filed two more petitions with the LHC and court while consolidating both petitions dismissed them on April 19, 1981. The petitioner filed two petitions to challenge the judgment of the LHC in Supreme Court and the court granted leave to the appeal besides maintaining status quo; however in the meanwhile the petitions were converted into civil appeal.

Qutabuddin approached then chief minister Nawaz Sharif through the governor on Aug 12, 1986 in which he sought the withdrawal the department’s notification of Dec 17, 1969 and the chief minister directed then secretary of Auqaf Muhammad Yousaf Khan to give comments who submitted a summary that the court had declared the land as Waqaf property; however the court order had not been incorporated in the revenue record. The chief minister directed the Auqaf Department to withdraw the notification No3(4)A/22 issued on Dec 29, 1971. The notification was issued on August 28, 1986 to withdraw notification of Dec 17, 1969 and consequently the civil appeals were withdrawn from the SCP and the court in its judgment on June 23, 1987 stated that the learned counsel wants to withdraw as the appeals have become infractuous on account of withdrawal of notification and status quo order stands vacated.

Qutabuddin sold land to different people and his legal heirs also continued selling the land till 2015. The land sold so far is 1,511.375 acres.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2019