LAHORE: After the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) has tightened the noose around Khwaja Muhammad Asif, a close confidant of former premier Nawaz Sharif, and initiated action against him on the allegation of illegally establishing a housing project in his hometown Sialkot.

The ACE on Thursday sealed the offices of the Kent View Housing Society, allegedly owned by Khwaja Asif’s wife and former PML-N Mayor Toheed Akhtar, and 12 other ‘illegal’ housing schemes in Sialkot.

“The record of the Kent View Housing Society has been scrutinised and observed that the owners have amended the location of the public building, open space, some mortgaged plots and graveyard in the approved scheme. The construction has been made in violation of rules. Thus it (office of the society) is sealed,” says an ACE report sent to its Director General Gohar Nafees.

The report says the offices of ‘unapproved’ Bashir Town and S.K. Gardens have also been sealed. “These are owned by Muhammad Ashraf and Muhammad Tanver who were sponsors of the 2018 election campaign of Khwaja Asif,” it says.

“The Kent Society jointly owned by Toheed Akhtar and the wife of Khwaja Asif illegally included 281 kanal land after the approval of the first map which was illegal according to the Punjab government’s private housing society schemes law. This housing society had also sold out plots from the area marked for open areas such as parks, graveyard and public amenities,” the report says.

Society already under scrutiny of NAB

The NAB Lahore is already probing Khwaja Asif in this matter. According to NAB, evidence shows Khwaja Asif established a housing project, Kent View Housing Society Sialkot, which has been operating illegally. NAB has sought records from him regarding sources and local amount of funds invested in the project by him, his family members (wife and son) and other partners/close relatives.

“Mr Asif, in collusion with the management of the society, illegally sold plots in excess of the approved layout plan of 137 kanals. He in connivance with the revenue authorities obtained relevant approvals despite the fact that the housing society in question was in illegal occupation of the state land.”

NAB says the former foreign minister had in collusion with the management of the society illegally occupied various pieces of land owned by individuals who never sold their land to the society.

The bureau is also holding investigations under section 18 (c) of the National Accountability Ordinance against other owners and developers of the Kent View Housing Society Sialkot, including former director of the Anti-Corruption Establishment, Gujranwala, Sheikh Fareed, and ACE ADI Qasim.

Mr Asif had appeared before a combined investigation team of NAB and responded to its queries in this regard. Khwaja Asif is also facing NAB investigation in his business abroad and holding. ACE has also initiated action against PML-N MPA Liaquat Ali for his unapproved Ayan Gardens in Sialkot.

Other illegal housing schemes are Usman Town, Hussain Town, Model Town, Al-Ghani Tower (Pasrur), Chand Bagh, Nasir Town and Abdullah Garden. These societies are owned by PML-N lawmakers’ front men Mansha Butt, Chaudhry Arshad Warraich and Abdul Sattar, ACE says.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2020

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