NAB launches probe into Bahria Town mega projects

The Nation

ISLAMABAD – NAB has launched a formal probe against Bahria Town Karachi, Bahria Town Lahore and Bahria Town Rawalpindi, according to a press release issued by the anti-corruption watchdog on Monday.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Javed Iqbal has directed the relevant directors general to complete their investigation within three months, in line with the orders of the apex court.

The chairman also ordered NAB Rawalpindi DG to start immediate inquiry against Federal Minister for Housing and Works Akram Khan Durani for his alleged illegal appointment in the ministry.

The apex court, in three hard-hitting verdicts delivered on May 4 against the real estate empire, had declared the procurement of land by Bahria Town for its housing projects in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Murree null and void.

The court noted that significant transfers and allotments of land to each project had been done illegally. It subsequently ordered the accountability bureau to file references against the individuals responsible for the transfers and to take action against them within three months.

In each order, the bureau was told pick up the thread from where it left off and take its investigations against Bahria Town to their logical end.

In response to our queries, NAB on Monday explained that its investigation in the New Murree Development Scheme was already complete, and that the inquiry against Bahria Town Lahore was a new initiative to investigate if there have been any irregularities in that project as well.

The apex court had barred Bahria Town from selling or allotting land in the Bahria Town Karachi project after declaring that the allotment of land to the company by the Sindh government and a massive land swap with the Malir Development Authority (MDA) was done illegally.

“[…] We are constrained to declare that the grant of the land to the MDA, its exchange with the land of Bahria Town and anything done pursuant thereto being against the provisions of COGLA 1912 [Colonization of Government Lands Act, 1912] and statement of conditions are void ab initio and as such have no existence,” the court ruled.

“The govt land would go back to the government and the land of Bahria Town exchanged for the government land would go back to Bahria Town,” the court ordered.

Separately, SC had also held Bahria Town responsible for encroachment on forest land in the Takht Pari area near Islamabad.

The issue raised in the Takht Pari case was that Bahria Town had ‘encroached’ upon 1,170 kanals of forest land, while the forest department had ‘encroached’ on an area measuring 765 kanals of Bahria Town.

However, the court struck down this mutual ‘encroachment’ deal, deeming it illegal and of no effect.

“We declare that the area of Takht Pari is 2,210 acres; that exchange of land purportedly encroached by Bahria Town and the forest department and attestation of mutations in this behalf being based on an erroneous assumption about the area is against the law and the record and as such of no effect and the order passed in S.M.C.No. 3 of 2009 is recalled.”

The court had also taken notice of alleged irregular allotment of land to the Defence Housing Authority (DHA).

In his judgement, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan — who headed the bench which heard the cases against Bahria Town — had drawn Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar’s attention to allegations that lands had also been allotted to DHA and many other societies on throwaway rates in contravention of the law.

If so, the verdict had said, the chief justice should take suo motu notice of those housing projects as well so that all of them are treated alike.

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