Ex-CM given chance to clear name in land scam

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday has provided Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi an opportunity to clear him of allegations that, as the chief minister, he ordered demarcation of forest land in Takht Pari — Rawalpindi — that eventually benefitted real estate developers Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd as well as his family.

“We are providing you an opportunity that you should clear your position,” said Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar while pointing towards the former chief minister.

A five-judge bench had taken up a set of review petitions of the Bahria Town against the May 4 verdict in which the Supreme Court had held that the area of Takht Pari — six kilometres away from Rawalpindi city near G.T. Road — encompassed 2,210 acres and not 1,741 acres, as claimed by the Bahria Town. The court also held the development of a housing scheme on the Patriata forest land in Murree illegal.

On Monday Mr Elahi was summoned to appear before the court and explain his position. In response he and former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain appeared before the court on Tuesday.

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Pervaiz Elahi, Bahria Town are accused of usurping forest land near Rawalpindi

Mr Elahi told the court that he could not recall the facts since the matter was 13 years old. He said he had served Punjab as its chief minister for five years… and his adversaries — the Sharif’s who had remained at the helm of affairs of the province for 10 long years — did their best to find out any clue against him to arraign him in corruption charges by employing all government machinery against him, but they could not find anything against him.

“This is why it is all the more necessary that you should clear your position by facing an inquiry either by the Federal Investigation Agency, National

Accountability Bureau, Anti-Corruption Department or a joint investigation team,” the CJP said.

Later, the court dismissed the review petitions and referred the matter to an implementation bench as per the directives of the May 4 judgement.

The implementation bench will also deal with the case of Mr Elahi.

During the last hearing, the court had noted that after the fresh demarcation of the forest land on the order of the then chief minister, a large chunk of 270 kanals went to his family members — Chaudhry Salik Hussain and Aaliya Shujaat — and his servant Chaudhry Munir.

The court wondered what business of approving demarcation of the forest land had to do with the chief minister who had no role in the entire hierarchy of revenue department.

Forensic analysis

The court also examined the revenue records and observed that it could order forensic analysis of the 2,006 Latha Masavi — a piece of cloth showing measurement and demarcation of the land in question — to ascertain whether the cloth was that old or just four of five years old.

The court observed that Latha Masavi had no evidentiary value but Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, representing the Bahria Town, insisted that the Masavi was the primary evidence whereas the record of rights was the secondary evidence on which the court was relying.

The CJP replied that the court was not ready to rely on the Masavi because a lot of manipulation had been done in it, but the 100-year-old gazetteer left by colonial British masters maintained the record of every inch of the land.

Barrister Ahsan argued that the gazetteer was only a book of reflections.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that overwhelming record which was at the disposal of the apex court that had decided the case on May 4 suggested something leading to the conclusion whereas Masavi suggested something otherwise.

How could the court ignore the factum that the demarcation done on the orders of the then chief minister benefited only his family, Justice Khosa asked. He said that the satellite images of 2003 to 2018 told a very sad tale of devastation of the forest land.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan also observed that the satellite imagery reflected a dismal picture rather massacre of jungle trees since 10,000 trees were chopped off, adding that the 1885 field map of the area suggested that the actual land of Takht Pari was 2,210 acres and not 1,741 as claimed by Bahria Town.

However, Barrister Ahsan said that his case was based on the Masavi prepared by the revenue department, pointing out that the recovery of the land of Korang River was being made nowadays with the help of similar Masavi.

He contended that the 1,741 acres of Takht Pari corroborated with the revenue records.

The CJP regretted that with the help of “big retired people”, Bahria Town managed to “beautifully squeeze the land” in such a way that the “shape of the demarcation did not change”.

Barrister Ali Zafar, also representing Bahria Town, argued that the mother document in the case was Masavi which measured the exact size of the land in question.

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