A local court in Karachi remanded a former honorary secretary of the Sindhi Muslim Cooperative Housing Society (SMCHS), Naveed Bashir, in police custody on Tuesday in a case pertaining to the encroachment of land meant for a service road in the city by virtue of the construction of Nasla Tower — a 15-storey residential building located at the intersection of Sharae Faisal and Shahrah-i-Quaideen.
The residential building is currently being demolished on Supreme Court (SC) directives issued in November last year.
At a later hearing on December 27, the SC had directed police and the Anti-Corruption Establishment to separately register cases against against the builder of Nasla Tower and officials of various civic agencies and departments in pursuance of a Supreme Court order for their involvement in the building's construction in violation of the law.
Subsequently, a first information report was registered against the building’s land owner, Abdul Qadir, the project’s builders, Sindh Building Control Authority’s chairperson and secretary, SMCHS officials, including Bashir, Master Plan Department’s director and deputy director, their subordinates and others, at Ferozeabad police station the next day.
The investigating officer (IO) produced Bashir before a judicial magistrate today and sought his physical remand for interrogation.
The IO claimed that the suspect had admitted during initial investigation that he was an honourary secretary in the SMCHS cabinet when the cooperative housing society had allowed the illegal occupation of the land meant for the service road, where Nasla Tower was later constructed.
The IO said a portion of the road in question "was illegally encroached by the cooperative housing society’s office-bearers in connivance with the officials of relevant provincial and civic departments".
He said further disclosures were expected from the detained suspect, and that the revelation might lead to the recovery of important documents related to the case.
On these grounds, he requested for a 14-day physical remand of the suspect for interrogation and investigation, so that the probe and other legal formalities could be completed.
The judge, however, remanded the suspect for a shorter period, until January 21, and directed the IO to produce him before the court at the next hearing. The judge also instructed the IO to present an investigation report at the next hearing.
Nasla Tower's demolition
On June 16, 2021, a three-judge SC bench, presided by the CJP, had initially ordered the demolition of the 15-storey Nasla Tower for encroaching on land meant for a service road.
Issuing a detailed order for the same on June 19, the court had also directed the builders of Nasla Tower to refund the amount to the registered buyers of residential and commercial units within three months.
Later, the builder of Nasla Tower had filed a review petition against the June 16 order, which was dismissed by the apex court last month.
On Oct 25, the SC had directed the city commissioner to demolish Nasla Tower through "controlled blasting" within a week and submit a report. Companies were subsequently told to submit their respective demolition costs until two were shortlisted.
Subsequently, district administration served notices to the residents of Nasla Tower earlier in October, directing them to vacate the 15-storey building by Oct 27 or face coercive action by relevant authorities. By Oct 28, almost all families had vacated their respective apartments.
The city administration had then sought directions of the apex court to finalise the demolition of Nasla Tower as one firm sought Rs220 million for razing the high-rise via controlled implosion while the other offered free-of-cost service via mechanical means.
The tower's demolition finally began on Nov 24 when the apex court chastised the Karachi commissioner over his failure to raze the tower, following which work to tear the building down started in earnest.
A case was registered against the building's owners and other relevant official late in December last year on SC directives.
Station House Officer Muhammad Khushnud Javed had registered the FIR at Ferozeabad police station under sections 34 (common intention), 161 (public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect to an official act), 167 (public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury), 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture), 408 (criminal breach of trust by clerk or servant), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 447 (criminal trespass) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The FIR, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said the city commissioner was ordered to submit a report to the court after an investigation from various departments related to the tower.
"[When] the Karachi commissioner got the aforementioned plots investigated from all the departments, it was found that the aforementioned plot [for Nasla Tower] is 780 square yards in the SMCHS (Sindh Muslim Cooperative Housing Society) papers," the FIR said.
It added that the society had allotted 780 square yards to the owner/builder, Abdul Qadir, who — in collusion with his construction partners and officials from SMCHS, SBCA, Master Plan Department (MPD) and other departments — had erected Nasla Tower on 1,121 square yards — illegally building on 341 square yards of a service road — and sold flats and shops to people.
It said the apex court had ordered the DIG East to register a case against all individuals involved in the irregularities of Nasla Tower including allotment, construction and mapping. The FIR added that it was already proven from the investigation of records that the building was constructed with "mala fide intent and collusion of related departments".
As a result and because of the court order, the FIR said a case was being registered against Abdul Qadir, his accomplice builders, the SBCA chairman and secretary who allotted the land, SMCHS officials, MPD director and deputy director, their officials as well as those of other departments involved in the scheme.