ISLAMABAD: Why were three Bahria Town officials off-loaded from a Saudi Arabia-bound flight? This is the question the Islamabad High Court has placed before the government in a case that is exp­ected to be taken up for hearing today (Thursday).

The question was posed in connection with three separate petitions, filed by retired brigadiers Tah­ir Butt and Zafar Iqbal Shah, and Manzoor Hus­sain Mu­­g­­hal before the IHC, with each being fixed for hearing before a separate bench. Butt is head of ‘Land Security’ for Bahria Town, Shah also looks after land-related matters, while Mughal holds the key position of chief surveyor for all real estate projects bel­onging to the controversial property developer, Malik Riaz.

Both Bahria Town and Malik Riaz have been in the headlines recently aft­er the influential property tycoon made some uncharacteristic posts on social media, claiming that he was under pressure to take a political side.

This was followed on Tu­­esday by a raid on the real estate firm’s Rawalp­indi offices — ostensibly carr­i­­ed out by the National Ac­­countability Bureau and local law enforcement.

Observers say that this is happening in the backdrop of the £190 million corruption reference in the Al Qadir Trust case against former PM Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi, as Riaz and his family members are also among those who have been declared pro­­claimed offenders by the court for not appearing before it.

Malik Riaz is considered extremely well-connected with political circles and the country’s civil and military establishment, but his Bahria Town business is no stranger to legal troubles.

The real estate develo­per has been at the centre of multiple court cases, al­­l­eging the use of questionable and high-handed land ac­­quisition tactics for its opulent real estate projects.

Placed on stoplist

In court, the three Bahria Town officials took the plea that they were disembarked by immigration staff from a flight to Saudi Arabia at Islamabad airport, while heading to perform Umrah.

Of the three cases, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb disposed of the petition before him, converting it into a representation and referring it to the Ministry of Interior for a speaking order.

Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Arbab Mohammad Tahir, however, had issued noti­ces to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

In response, FIA submitted the ‘Stoplist Docu­ment’ of the Inte­g­rated Border Management Sys­tem (IBMS), according to which the three men were placed on the Passport Control List on the recommendation of General He­­adquarters, Rawalpindi.

An FIA official maintained that the petitioners were placed on black list/passport control list on the recommendation of an intelligence agency.

The agency’s written st­­atement explained that the “IBMS is integrated with the system of Direc­torate General of Immigration and Passports, Islamabad for purpose of transmission of real-time information”.

As soon as the name of any individual is placed or removed from the PCL, “the same is also transmitted to FIA IBMS in order to implement it (sic) by FIA immigration authorities.”

However, the court has asked the Ministry of Defence to explain why their names were placed on the stop list, and a response is expected to be furnished when the matter is taken up today.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2024

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