ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to go ahead with finalising references against the Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd in a case relating to exchange of lands between the developer and the Malir Development Authority (MDA).
“To avoid confusion, it is being clarified that the mere fact that a case is pending before the Supreme Court will not inhibit NAB from proceeding under the law,” observed Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, who was heading a three-judge bench.
The bench had taken up the implementation of its May 4, 2018 judgement which held that the grant of land to the MDA by the Sindh government, its exchange with the land of the private land developer — Bahria Town — and anything done under the provisions of the Colonisation of Government Land Act-1912 by the provincial government was illegal.
The land was granted for launching an incremental housing scheme, but instead of doing so, the MDA exchanged it with Bahria Town which launched a scheme of its own, the judgement had held.
Bureau is waiting for outcome of settlement between Malik Riaz and Sindh govt, apex court told
“The window of opportunity is squeezing,” observed Justice Saeed, but postponed further proceedings for Feb 14 at the request of Barrister Ali Zafar, the counsel for real estate tycoon Malik Riaz.
“Why NAB has gone into hibernation?” Justice Saeed inquired while pointing towards Prosecutor General of the bureau Syed Asghar Haider.
The court reminded him that during one of the last hearings, NAB had assured the court that it had completed its investigations and even references were ready, but being vetted. The final references would be ready in two to three weeks, it had said. The court had ordered NAB to continue with its investigations which it had initiated against the developer in line with the directives issued under the May 4, 2018 judgement.
The prosecutor general explained that because of caution, NAB was waiting for the outcome of a settlement between the developer tycoon and the Sindh government and that was the reason it had not filed the references yet.
During the last hearing on Jan 22, the Bahria Town had offered to raise the amount — from the earlier offer of Rs250 billion to Rs358bn — it was willing to pay for the lands it possessed in the Malir district, Karachi, where it had developed an upscale housing society.
On Tuesday, Azhar Siddique, another lawyer representing Mr Malik, requested the court not to issue any directives to NAB since it vitiated the atmosphere and created panic in the market, leading to a slump in the real estate sector.
When the lawyer told the court that his client wanted to furnish objections to the report filed by NAB, Justice Saeed explained that the bureau had filed a progress report on which the court was not inviting any objection because it did not want to prejudice the trial by an accountability court.
“It is not our job but of the trial court to decide on the references,” Justice Saeed said.
The proprietors of three authorised dealers of the Bahria Town — Masoodul Ahsan Alvi of the Prism Marketing, Mohammad Nadir of the Cosmos and Atif Ullhani of the Tri-Star — also appeared before the court on court notices. They the court that balloting for plots in the Bahria Town had already been done.
The court ordered them to furnish complete data — from day one when the project was launched — about the total number of plots, bookings made and the total amounts transacted.
The court also warned them that they had been summoned to assist it, but they would land themselves into trouble if they fiddled or tampered with the data.
In case they failed to provide the required details, the court would direct the relevant authorities to take into custody their computers besides issuing non-bailable warrants for them in case of their absence on the next date of hearing, they were cautioned.
Earlier the court was told that the marketing dealers were still indulging in the sale and purchase of the lands in violation of the ban on all kind of transactions in the Bahria Town.
The SC bench was informed that the Nazir of the Sindh High Court had acquired possession of 3,600 acres of land and a formal report in this regard had been filed. The court exempted the Nazir from appearing in the court on next hearing.
Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2019