Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court ordered three top government institutions to ascertain the actual lands in physical possession of the Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd, Malir, which according to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is 25,601 acres.
A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, ordered the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), the Survey of Pakistan and NAB to sit together and identify lands which Bahria Town claims is not in their possession and have erroneously been added to Bahria Town by NAB.
The bench had taken up the implementation of the May 4 judgement of the Supreme Court.
Suparco, Survey of Pakistan and NAB told to sit together and identify lands which the firm claims have been added in its name erroneously
The judgement concerns with cases involving the grant of 9,385 acres of land in 43 Dehs, consolidated by the Malir Development Authority (MDA) and then handed over to the Bahria Town in 2015. The land is situated about nine kilometres from the toll plaza on the Karachi-Hyderabad Superhighway, a 25-minute drive from the Jinnah International Airport.
In its May 4 judgement, the Supreme Court had held that the grant of land to the MDA by the Sindh government, its exchange with the land of the private land developers — Messrs Bahria Town — and anything done under the provisions of Colonisation of Government Land Act, 1912, (COGLA) by the Sindh government as illegal, void ab initio and as such of no legal existence.
The lands were granted for launching incremental housing scheme, but instead of launching it, the MDA exchanged it with the Bahria Town to launch a scheme of its own, the judgement had held.
The MDA was created by the Malir Development Authority Act, 1993, for the purpose of developing certain areas of the Karachi division.
The directions came when Barrister Ali Zafar, who represented the Bahria Town, disputed the claim of NAB and asserted that figures being cited by NAB were wrong since NAB had included 1,664 acres of lands of the adjoining Jamshoro district which were private-owned properties besides the bureau had added another 10,000 acres with the Bahria Town.
He said that 7,318 acres was government land which could be taken out and according to Bahria Town’s calculation the total lands the builder tycoon owned was 16,200 acres and not 18,336 acres as was claimed earlier.
NAB’s Investigating Officer Qamar Abbass told the Supreme Court that as per the determination of the Survey of Pakistan, the actual lands in possession of Bahria Town was 25,601 acres out of which 7,220 acres were illegally exchanged in Feb 2015 with MDA by Mr Malik Riaz.
In 2016, the actual lands in possession of the Bahria Town were 12,156 which swelled to 25,601 acres, the NAB investigation officer told the Supreme Court.
NAB Prosecutor General Syed Asghar Haider informed the court that NAB had completed its investigation into the Malir development case and the reference in this regard was being vetted, but the formal reference would be finalised in two to three weeks.
The investigation officer said that 1,644 acres which Bahria Town claimed to be situated in the Jamshoro district was also Sindh government’s lands, adding that the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board had also informed NAB that the private builder had carried out 59 unauthorised borings of which 1.7 million of gallons of water was being extracted from aquifer on a daily basis.
In addition to this Rs5.5 billion was still outstanding with the MDA which the builder had to pay for the layout plans.
The Sindh Building Control Authority is also claiming that all buildings had been constructed illegally in Malir district by the Bahria Town, the investigation officer said, adding that no taxes for the registration of lands had been paid to the Sindh government by Bahria Town.
Justice Saeed, however, asked NAB to investigate and file separate references against the builder, adding that rights of the Sindh government would be protected at all cost. The judge observed that the court expected that an appropriate action would be taken against the departments concerned and the builder.