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SC demands details of ETPB-DHA deals

March 28, 2013

ISLAMABAD, March 27: Soon to be the party's nominee for Lahore's NA-118 seat, Asif Hashmi was till recently the PPP-appointed head of the Evacuee Trust Property Board.

And this is why he might just be the latest PPP official to be in the Supreme Court limelight as the judiciary hears a case concerning the ETPB deals.

In response to a complaint from the Pakistan Sikh Council and allegations of “fraudulent” real estate deals, however, a Supreme Court bench has ordered the ETPB to detail “all transactions and deals” entered on during his chairmanship.

The president of the council, Sardar Mastan Singh, had approached the court regarding encroachment on gurdwara properties in different parts of Punjab. Most dramatically, the site of a Lahore gurdwara, in Choona Mandi, was “appropriated” by the Defence Housing Authority for the construction of a commercial plaza.

On February 6, the court had passed a stay order prohibiting the DHA from construction activity on land that was connected to Sikh places of worship, including the Choona Mandi property, 544 kanals in Mouza Lidhar, 307 in Motta Singhwala, and others. On Wednesday, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry ordered that the prohibition remain in effect.

Singh's lawyer, Shahram Sarwar, presented the court with more disturbing news: According to Sarwar, the ETPB under Asif Hashmi invested Rs960 million in “real estate business” with DHA Rawalpindi/Islamabad.

“No actual transaction took place,” he said, “because no land or property actually existed for this investment."

The investment was made “by purchasing files of the would-be properties,” Sarwar said, adding that the Federal Investigation Agency in Lahore was also probing the “scam."

Visibly disturbed, the justices have not only asked for details on transactions approved by Asif Hashmi, but have also ordered the Secretaries of DHA Lahore and DHA Rawalpindi/Islamabad to appear on April 10, “to submit a comprehensive report on their dealings with the ETPB in both Lahore and Rawalpindi/islamabad.”