ISLAMABAD: A report of the Auditor General of Pakistan has revealed that two real estate giants — Bahria Town and Defence Housing Authority — have encroached upon 785 kanals of state land along Karachi-Hyderabad (M-9) motorway.

While scrutinising financial affairs of the National Highway Authority (NHA), auditors noted that Bahria Town Karachi (BTK) encroached upon 491-kanal land and DHA City Karachi grabbed 294-kanal land of the NHA.

M-9 is a six-lane, 136-km-long road connecting Karachi to Hyderabad. Constructed between 2015 and 2018 by expanding the existing Superhighway, the motorway also caters to the commercial traffic originating from Karachi Port and Port Qasim.

The audit report found that BTK used 491-kanal NHA’s land on M-9 for construction of interchange “without any approval of NHA authorities and without entering into lease agreement with NHA”. Also, it noted that DHA City constructed an interchange and access road at NHA’s Land/Right of Way at M-9 Karachi by utilising about 3km government land (on both sides of the M-9). “294-kanal (land) was illegally utilised by DHA without any approval of NHA authorities and without entering into lease agreement with NHA,” the audit report stated.

Auditors recommend probe to fix responsibility, recover dues as per NHA policy

According to the report, the auditors pointed out this matter in May-June 2021, but the NHA did not reply. Despite repeated requests, the departmental audit committee did not convene its meeting to examine this audit para, it stated.

The auditors recommended an inquiry for fixing of responsibility on those found responsible besides recovery of dues as per NHA policy.

The report mentioned that regulatory framework and standard operating procedure for preservation and commercial use of the right of way should be used to implement NHA’s policies for commercialisation, preservation of right of way, building line and removal of encroachments, erection/establishment of filling stations, hotels, motels, restaurants, factories, nurseries, shops, khokhas, hoarding/billboards, etc and laying of utility lines.

The commercial use of the right of way was morally or ethically in contravention to religious or regional sensitivities of the people, it added.

BTK opened its interchange on M9 in February 2020. The eight-km-long project includes three underpasses, multiple slip roads, access roads, service roads, part of M9.

The Supreme Court had accepted ‘Rs460bn offer’ by BTK for the Malir district land it had occupied and restrained the accountability bureau from filing references against it three years ago.

The Public Accounts Committee earlier this year grilled NAB chairman for giving an ‘undue favour’ to the property tycoon by also allowing him to pay the ‘Rs460bn fine’ pertaining to the BTK housing project from the £140m proceeds that the UK’s National Crime Agency had returned to Pakistan.

The bureau has recently summoned former adviser on accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar and former members of the federal cabinet in connection with the said probe.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2022

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