SAHIWAL: Vehicles coming out of the Ittefaq Sugar Mills on Saturday.—Dawn
SAHIWAL: Vehicles coming out of the Ittefaq Sugar Mills on Saturday.—Dawn

LAHORE: The Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) has retrieved 36 kanals of land allegedly encroached upon by the Sharif family’s mills in Sahiwal some 37 years ago.

According to ACE, Ittefaq Sugar Mills had encroached upon an area of state land measuring 36 kanals and made part of it in 1982. However, it (mills) had shifted its machinery to Rahim Yar Khan to set up another sugar mills which was lately stopped by the Supreme Court.

After retrieving the land on Saturday in collaboration with the Sahiwal deputy commissioner, revenue and police officials, ACE chief Gohar Nafees ordered an inquiry into the matter directing to fix responsibility in this regard and receive ‘rent’ from the mills owners for 37 years so the national exchequer’s loss could be compensated.

“The Sharif family members will soon be issued notices in this regard by the ACE to record their statements with regard to encroachment of state land,” an official told Dawn.

Anti-corruption establishment official insists the move is not a political one

He said upon receiving a source report in this regard the matter was taken up with the Pakpattan assistant commissioner and the revenue department that confirmed the encroachment on the state land by Ittefaq Sugar Mills. “This move should not be seen as a political one as the ACE is showing zero tolerance against those who occupied state land,” he said.

On Saturday, officials of the ACE, revenue and police visited the site. Of the 36 kanals of occupied land inside the mills, 16 kanals were found vacant and on the remaining area stores of sugar and a laboratory were built.

According to the official, the value of the land at the site was Rs22.5m. “No rent of the land has been paid since 1982 and its worth will be in billions,” he said.

At present, the official said, this mill was not functional as the Sharif family had shifted its machinery to Rahim Yar Khan to set up another sugar mill. “Although this mill in Sahiwal had not been functional for quite some time, its owners had the land possession,” he said.

Meanwhile, the ACE may again quiz former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Kot Lakhpat jail regarding a three-decade-old case pertaining to alleged illegal allotment of land belonging to Baba Farid shrine in Pakpattan.

A four-member ACE team about two months ago had recorded Mr Sharif’s statement in jail in this case.

Mr Sharif, however, couldn’t give a satisfactory reply to the ACE, saying how could he remember anything so old.

According to sources, when the ACE team sought a reply on the allegation that he being chief minister of Punjab in 1986 allotted the land in violation of the court order, Mr Sharif said: “It is an over 30-year-old case and I do not remember anything about this. My legal team will give a reply in this regard.”

A joint investigation team (JIT) earlier this year had recommended initiation of criminal proceedings against several individuals, including then Punjab chief minister Nawaz Sharif, for withdrawing a Dec 17, 1969, notification and allotting 14,394 kanals land of Auqaf around the shrine to Dewan Ghulam Qutab in 1986, allegedly in violation of a Lahore High Court (LHC) order.

Mr Sharif is serving a seven-year imprisonment in the Al Azizia Mills case.

Shafique Butt also contributed to this report from Sahiwal

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2019