Walton land allegations

Published April 10, 2024

THE allegations of corruption and violation of rules in the sale of Lahore’s Walton airport land by the Civil Aviation Authority to the Punjab Central Business District Development Authority, made by a private aviation industry body, deserve a fair probe.

In its letter to the aviation authorities, the Aircraft Owners & Operators Association of Pakistan has pointed out that the airport land had been sold by the CAA to the provincial real estate developer at less than 15pc of its market value of Rs350bn, and that several rules and regulations were flouted while closing the deal.

The CAA has dismissed the accusations as baseless and fake. The provincial real estate development agency has also refuted the AOOAP claims, saying it was an attempt to bring the project into disrepute.

Their response has, however, raised questions. Even though the deal involves two government agencies, there is no denying the fact that a powerful real estate business lobby, which stands to benefit from the scheme, had provided the impetus for this multibillion-rupee commercial project. In addition, it is an open secret that no development project, least of all one involving real estate, implemented in this country is above board.

The way the Punjab government rushed the controversial Ravi Urban Development project in total disregard of the livelihoods of those whose land it was forcibly trying to acquire, while also flouting court orders, is just another example. It is, therefore, advisable that an independent probe be carried out into the AOOAP’s allegations — for the sake of transparency, if nothing else.

This is important to remove public doubts over the transaction as well as the project being undertaken. It is also crucial to dispel the perception that the scheme has been undertaken to benefit some wealthy business groups.

If the controversy persists, it may scare away potential investors and impede the project. No one should fear the inquiry if their hands are clean.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2024

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