NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM MAY 11TH TO MAY 17TH
NAB LAUNCHES LAND GRABBING INQUIRY
By APP Published: May 12, 2020
SUKKUR: On the directives of the National Bureau of Accountability (NAB) chairperson Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, the Sukkur NAB director-general (DG) has launched an inquiry into cases pertaining to grabbing state land, usurping government funds and illegal appointments in the forest department on Monday.
In a meeting chaired by the Sukkur NAB DG, the decision was made to take action against those involved in illegally grabbing thousands of acres of forest land for the cultivation of crops such as sugarcane and bananas.
A petitioner had earlier filed a plea against the Sindh forest secretary and others in the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) Sukkur circuit bench, maintaining that forest lands were being illegally occupied by some politically influential people.
The SHC had ordered the accountability watchdog to initiate an inquiry into the matter and submit a report about it, while the NAB chairperson had also told officials to look into the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2020.
SHC ORDERS OPERATION TO RETRIEVE FOREST LAND IN SINDH
The Newspaper’s Correspondent May 13, 2020
SUKKUR: The Sindh High Court, Sukkur bench on Tuesday ordered forest department to retrieve illegally occupied lands in Keti Mumtaz, Keti Kharal, Keti Fareedabad, Keti Jatoi and other areas.
The bench comprising Justice Amjad Ali Sahito and Justice Shamsuddin Abbasi issued the order while hearing the matter concerning illegal occupation of hundreds of acres of forest land in several districts.
The bench came down hard on the Sindh chief secretary and inspector general of police for not appearing in the previous hearings despite getting several notices. It ordered the officials to ensure their attendance on the next hearing, fixed for June 16.
The chief conservator of forests on Tuesday submitted his report regarding the department’s efforts towards retrieving the illegally occupied land in certain areas.
In the last hearing held on May 2, the court had asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to hold an investigation into allotment of forest land since 1985.
NAB prosecutor informed the bench that the bureau had already started its investigation as per the court’s order. Quoting NAB’s findings so far, he stated that 10 patches — nine in Khairpur district and one in Naushahro Feroze district — of forest land in the katcha area were under illegal occupation of some influential political figures.
The bench remarked that political and other influential figures had been occupying forest land without any fear of being held accountable. It ordered initiation of an operation for the retrieval of these lands.
The bench also issued directives to the director general of Sindh Rangers to provide security to the officials and personnel in the process of the retrieval of forest land from illegal occupants.
Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2020
PTI LEADER ‘INVOLVED IN JAMSHORO LAND SCAM’
By Our Correspondent Published: May 15, 2020
KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Haleem Adil Sheikh, along with 14 others, has been found involved in a land scam in Jamshoro, as per a report submitted to relevant authorities by the anti-corruption department on Thursday.
The report was submitted following the completion of a probe against the PTI leader and others accused of the illegal allotment of land.
As per the report, Sheikh illegally allotted 207 acres of state land, worth Rs410 million, through his frontman, Tariq Qureshi. The report also cites earlier investigation reports, issued by the Sehwan Development Authority and the Jamshoro deputy commissioner, which had concluded that the MPA was involved in the illegal allotment of land through fraud as well.
Furthermore, the report identifies six housing schemes established on the illegally allotted land on the Super Highway by the MPA and others, in collusion with Sehwan Development Authority revenue officers.
It elaborates that the officials took bribes in exchange for illegally transferring land through forgery and approving maps for the illegal housing project.
Stating that the details of the scam were revealed by Qureshi to the Sindh Building Control Authority, the report declares that legal action will be taken against the offenders after the approval of relevant authorities.
Sheikh, meanwhile, has dismissed the allegations levelled against him and claimed that the land in question was not state property but privately owned. He maintained that he and his relatives were being harassed by being embroiled in the case, in order to stop him from speaking against the Sindh government.
He further accused the officer who prepared the report, Zameer Abbasi, of being a “fraudster” himself, terming the report part of a media campaign launched to malign him.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2020.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM MAY 4TH TO MAY 10TH
PUNJAB GOVT RATIFIES ARMY LAND ALLOTMENT TO CIVILIAN OFFICIALS
Nasir Jamal Updated May 04, 2020
LAHORE: The Punjab government has ratified the allotment of up to 25 acres of state land, which was meant for the families of the martyred soldiers and war veterans under the Army Welfare Scheme (AWS), to 47 civilian government officials.
The allotments had been made without legal sanction on the orders of former dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf in contravention of the merit and law, two persons in CM Secretariat confirmed on condition of anonymity.
According to the sources in the Punjab CM Secretariat, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had cancelled the allotment, which had been ordered by the former military dictator during January 2004 and May 2008 in alleged violation of the Colonisation of Government Land (Punjab) Act 1912 and the allotment policy framed in 1962 under it for the AWS.
After the cancellation order, the PML-N government also rejected multiple summaries put up to former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif for ratification. The land branch of GHQ had first approached the Punjab government in April 2009 to not revoke the allotments. The military was of the opinion that the “allotments made to the civil officials may be treated as closed chapter” and offered to work out allotment modalities for future in consultation with the provincial government and the provincial Board of Revenue. However, Mr Sharif did not oblige.
Beneficiaries include federal cabinet division secretary, PSO to CM Buzdar
The sources in CM Secretariat said around 837 acres of the AWS land had been allotted to civilian officials without consulting the provincial government. The land had been allotted in districts of Bahawalpur, Pakpattan, Khanewal, Sahiwal, Muzaffargarh, Bahawalnagar, Rahim Yar Khan and Sadiqabad.
The former CM rejected another summary prepared by the Board of Revenue in February 2012, as the then Punjab chief secretary noted that it didn’t augur well for the civil service and the overall good governance.
According to the fresh summary approved by the Usman Buzdar government to restore and validate the allotments, the Sharif government had cancelled the allotments and retrieved the allotted land from the beneficiary officials in 2010, because the land was actually allotted to the military for a specific purpose under the law.
Those who had sold the land allotted to them were told by the Sharif administration to deposit the sale proceeds to the provincial treasury. The provincial officials who had benefited from the GHQ’s decision were suspended while the matter of the three DMG officers who got the land was sent to the Establishment Division. Apparently, the Establishment Division did not take any action against them.
The prominent beneficiaries include DMG officers – Sardar Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera (currently the federal cabinet division secretary), Dr Faisal Zahoor and Syed Imtiaz Hussain Shah. Ex-PCS officials who will benefit from the government decision include Mohammad Zahid Ikram, Sikandar Ali Bokhari, Syed Najaf Abbas Bokhari, Malik Mohammad Ramzan, Mohammad Ashraf Yousufi, Abdul Ghafoor Virk, Dur Mohammad Khan, Irshad Mohyuddin, Syed Zahid Hussain Jilani, Mohammad Ashfaq, Mohammad Akram Bhatti, Amir Karim Khan (currently PSO to CM Buzdar), Mushtaq Ahmed Anjum and Mohammad Azam Khan. The remaining officials mostly included district revenue officials.
Eight beneficiary officers then filed a petition with the Lahore High Court (LHC) against the cancellation order of the Punjab government. In June 2013, the court directed the Board of Revenue member (colonies) to set aside the cancellation order and decide the matter afresh in accordance with the law after considering all the legal and factual submissions made by the parties and after following due process required under the law.
The GHQ then cancelled the allotments in October 2013 in its papers.
Officials at the CM secretariat said as long as Mr Sharif was there, no one dared to bring the matter up again.
Later in November 2019, the DG Lands at GHQ wrote to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government led by Mr Buzdar for restoration of the allotments, stating that “all the orders of president/chief executive of Pakistan were subsequently given constitutional protection and also upheld by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Tikka Iqbal case”.
Strangely enough the DG Lands did not mention that the said judgement was overturned by a 14-member bench in July 2009 in the PCO Judges case.
Two days after the receipt of the DG Lands’ letter, the BoR member (colonies) initiated a fresh summary for the Punjab CM, requesting Mr Buzdar to “take an explicit decision whether to withdraw the order cancelling the impugned allotments”. The chief minister referred the matter to the standing committee of the cabinet on legislative business that in February endorsed the viewpoint of the DG Lands, GHQ.
The chief minister later approved the allotments “as recommended by the standing committee subject to ratification by the cabinet” given last week.
Neither Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chohan nor Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Iftikhar Sahoo responded to Dawn queries and repeated texts and calls in this regard during the last three days.
The only time Mr Chohan replied was when he texted back and sought the questions in writing, but never reverted back.
The questions sent to the minister were if the provincial government/cabinet had validated the allotment of AWS land to the 47 civil officials in its meeting on Thursday? What factors had led the cabinet to overturn the cancellation of the allotments by the previous government for being illegal after so many years?
Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2020
PM WANTS TO RAISE $15BN THRU SALE OF UNUTILIZED GOVT LAND
By MUSHTAQ GHUMMAN on May 8, 2020
Prime Minister Imran Khan has reportedly expressed his intention to raise $ 15 billion from the sale of 100,000 plots of land to overseas Pakistanis across Pakistan at a price of $ 150,000 each, well informed sources told Business Recorder.
The Prime Minister, sources said, shared his intent with his cabinet colleagues during a cabinet meeting held on April 28, 2020.
According to sources, Prime Minister informed the cabinet that to bolster foreign exchange reserves, which would come under pressure in the coming days, a plan had been devised to offer 100,000 plots to overseas Pakistanis at the rate of $ 150,000 per plot.
A land bank, sources said, was being established for this purpose and the Ministries/ Division were asked to indentify unutilized government lands under their control.
Prime Minister, however, was of the view that unfortunately, the response so far had been tepid and the cabinet members needed to sensitize their respective Ministries/ Division on the importance and urgency of the issue.
The Prime Minister directed all Ministries/ Divisions to urgently identify unutilized government land under their control for the land bank created by the government so that real estate schemes may be launched for overseas Pakistanis to bolster foreign exchange reserves. Prime Minister’s Office will follow up.
An official who attended the cabinet meeting told Business Recorder that there was no formal summary about this proposal, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan, mentioned this proposal as a passing remark.
However, he said that different Ministries have been asked to submit the details of unutilized land with the Prime Minister’s Office so that a comprehensive policy is formulated in this regard as early as possible.
On December 19, 2019, Prime Minister during a meeting with the economic team had directed utilizing government land for construction of Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme.
He was of the view that overseas Pakistanis are assets of the country and facilities must be given to them for easy transfer of funds. He ordered provision of concessions to nationals residing in foreign countries who have shown willingness to strengthen the national economy.
Last year, the government launched five-year dollar denominated diaspora bonds at an interest rate of 6.75 per cent which was higher than the price at which Pakistan had issued the last two bonds of same tenor.
Officially called Pakistan Banao Certificates, the government had invited overseas Pakistanis to invest in three-year paper at 6.25 per cent interest rate and in five year bonds at 6.75 per cent interest rate.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
SC MOVED AGAINST NOWSHERA LAND AUCTION AFTER SCHOOL DISLOCATION
Bureau Report Updated May 10, 2020
PESHAWAR: A resident of Nowshera has moved Supreme Court of Pakistan against a recent judgment of Peshawar High Court and challenged the leasing out of a precious piece of land after dislocating a school from it in Nowshera Cantonment.
The resident, Amanullah Khan, has filed a leave to appeal petition in Supreme Court’s Peshawar Registry, challenging the Feb 26, 2020, judgment of the high court through which his writ petition against the leasing out of the land allegedly to a political figure at much cheaper rate was challenged.
The petitioner claims that a school was functional in a building on the said land, but the building was vacated and the school was shifted to a rented building.
He said that the building on 32-marla land was auctioned in a clandestine manner so as to benefit a local leader of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
The petition, filed through Advocate Shah Faisal Ilyas, contended that the judgment of the high court was against law, facts and record of the case, hence untenable.
Petitioner claims land auctioned in clandestine manner to benefit PTI leader
It added that the high court failed to appreciate the fact that the matter in hand was inquired by National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which reported misuse of authority, favouritism and loss to public exchequer.
The petitioner contended that since 1928 the building in question, situated at front of Nowshera Bus Terminal, was having a school.
He stated that initially the building was leased out to a school named Arya Girls School for 30 years and prior to that the building was used as a church.
After partition, he stated, the building was taken over by education department and Government High School No.2 remained functional in it till 2008. Thereafter, he added, the high school was shifted to Government High School No.1, whereas office of sub-divisional education officer was functional there along with Government Primary school No.1 till Dec 18, 2016.
The petitioner claimed that the said building was vacated by Cantonment Board and school and offices were forcibly removed from there, following which the school was functioning in a rented building.
He stated that the building spread over 32-marla was auctioned and demolished. He added that the land was leased out at rate of Rs5.1 million, which was less than the price of a single marla in that commercial area.
The petitioner alleged that the relevant advertisement for auctioning the land was flouted in two smalltime newspapers so as to keep the exercise of auction a secret.
He contended that the property of 32-marla was a Waqaf property for the beneficial purpose of education and converting the same into a commercial plaza for private persons was based on malafide.
The petitioner requested the apex court to declare that the said property might be utilised for government buildings or should be re-auctioned by giving advertisement in widely circulated newspaper so as to avoid inflicting loss to national exchequer.
Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2020