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Investor in litigation with army on joy-land investment

November 30, 2012

MULTAN, Nov 29: A man who claims to have invested Rs120 million in an army-owned recreational place fears his money at stake after the alleged contract violations by the Headquarters 1, Multan Armored Division.

Muhammad Salman Akram, of Tipu Sultan Road, told Dawn the army authorities had leased him the Fort Park, famously know as Chamanzar-i-Askari, in 2008 for an initial period of 10 years with extendable on revised terms and conditions for additional three terms of five year each.

Now, the authorities have signed a modified contract with another party despite a stay order by the Lahore High Court, Multan bench.

The court had granted a stay order binding the armoured division not to cancel the contract with the petitioner.

Salman, the chief executive officer of the Manahil Enterprises, filed a petition with the LHC, Multan bench, on Dec 16, 2011, stating that he had met all conditions set under the agreement with the division. He deposited a refundable Rs5 million and was paying the agreed rent regularly. He installed 20 amusement outdoor rides, 50 indoor riders, club/resort, water sports, restaurant, gaming café, bowling alley, indoor cinema and zoo. The installations made the place a crowd puller and it became a favourite hangout of families.

He says he invested huge money in the lake landscape and a security wall between the polo ground and Chamanzar-i-Askari. He installed a water supply system for the lake and an underground electrification and plantation in the park. He constructed a restaurant, a fast food centre, a jogging-walking track, a hall for play land, a cinema, an entrance gate, security rooms, ticket booths and toilets besides other joy land attractions.He said though he had installed all attractions with the approval of the respondents but on July 30, 2010, he was informed that the approval for outdoor rides had been withdrawn. He stopped paying rent to the division in protest and asked the authorities for negotiations on terms and conditions of the contract.

He said that as per the agreement, the respondent was to place the matter for arbitration in case of any mutual dispute but the division straightaway served him a notice on Nov 06, 2011, asking him to pay the rent of one-and-a-half year.

On Nov 20, the division agreed to arbitration. He proposed Mureed Khawja and Khawja Abdul Rauf Gulrez as his arbitrators, while the army proposed Lt-Col Abdul Hameed Manzoor, Lt-Col Muhammad Shafiq Shaukat and Lt- Col Muhammad Zahid Abbas as its arbitrators. He says he rejected the names and demanded some independent individuals as arbitrators.

He requested the court to direct the respondent to proceed with the arbitration as mandated in the Arbitration Act of 1940 by nominating fresh arbitrators. He also requested the court to bar the respondent from canceling the agreement.

He says his lawyer withdrew the petition on March 26, 2012, without his consent. He came to know about the move when on April 6, Gulrez informed him that the board had declared him the new contractor.

Salman says he was also shocked to see that his petition had been withdrawn fraudulently. He moved the court on April 11 challenging the orders of March 26. On his request, Justice Abdul Waheed Khan directed the respondent on April 12 not to cancel the contract.

He said that on March 26, the army division had signed a modified agreement in favor of Gulrez on an affidavit, which stated that he (Salman) had transferred the rights of lease along with Rs5 million refundable security to Gulrez.

He said that he lodged an FIR under section 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the PPC against Gulrez with Chehliyak Police Station on Aug 1 for preparing a forged and fraud affidavit. Now, Gulrez is on bail.

Salman says under the contract signed with him, the board would have received Rs340 million by 2033 but it will get only Rs161 million under the agreement with Gulrez.

Salman said that according to the agreement the department had agreed to give 15 acres and one kanal to him but later he was allowed to use only 25 per cent of the premises.

He said that his contract cannot be terminated in the next 10 years and a stay order has also been granted to him by the court. He said that the board did not entertain the court order and had committed contempt of court.

He requested Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the general officer commanding of Multan to intervene in the matter.

Police investigation officer Ghulam Yasin said that an application has been moved to the sessions court for acquiring documents while letters have been dispatched to inform the Headquarters 1 Armoured Division that the documents provided by Gulzar were forged.

The office of the Inter-Services Public Relations did not respond for more than a week when Dawn contacted it via email and phone to get its version.