Supreme Court finds massive illegalities in lands acquired by Real Estate Tycoon Malik Riaz and his firm Bahria Town Ltd. for housing projects in Karachi and Rawalpindi and declares them illegal; The court also considered the interests of those people (includes overseas Pakistanis) Bahria Town has already sold the land to.
May 4, 2018 (DESPARDES/PKONWEB) — In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court on Friday barred country’s renowned real estate development enterprise “Bahria Town” from selling or allotting land in the Bahria Town Karachi (BTK) project off the Super Highway in the outskirts of the metropolis — Pakistan’s financial capital — after declaring that the land allotment to Real Estate tycoon Malik Riaz’s company by the Sindh provincial government and a massive land swap with the Malir Development Authority (MDA) was done illegally, hence void ab initio. (See map below).
The top court however ruled that public buyers of the land and the built-up properties on the project be accommodated through a mechanism–it suggested the implementation bench of the top court would decide. A sizable number of Pakistani expats have bought/invested in the BTK and other Bahria Town projects countrywide.
Read about the BTK project below…
“[…] 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 said.
Therefore, “The government 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 top court ordered.
The 3-member bench hearing the case further directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file references against those responsible for illegally transferring and allotting land and to take action against them within three months.
The court also ordered that “Bahria Town shall not sell any plot, built-up unit, apartment etc after the announcement of this judgement. Any allotment made after the announcement of this judgement shall be void.”
The court said NAB shall pick up the thread from where it left and take its investigation to its logical end. “The investigation report which was submitted in the Court and sealed under its order may now be collected for further action. The investigation be completed within a period of three months from the date of announcement of this judgement and a reference be filed in the Accountability Court against all those who are found responsible for causing loss to the state exchequer,” the apex court further ruled.
The court also considered the interests of those people Bahria Town has already sold the land to. (See map below)
“Since a great deal of work has been done by the Bahria Town and a third-party interest has been created in favor of hundreds of allotees, the land could be granted to the Bahria Town afresh by the Sindh Board of Revenue (BOR) under the provisions of COGLA 1912.”
“What would be the terms and conditions of grant, what would be the price of the land, whether it would be the one at which the Bahria Town sold the land to the people by and large, how much of government land and how much of the private land has been utilized by the Bahria Town, and what Bahria Town is entitled to receive in terms of money on account of development of the land are the questions to be determined by the implementation bench of this court.”
“We, therefore, request the Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute a bench for the implementation of this judgement in its letter and spirit,” it asked.
BTK is considered one of the largest real estate developments in Karachi and in the country. According to market analysts, the verdict while shaking up the country’s real estate sector temporarily, would go a long way in facilitating rule of law in it–property market is considered a cul-de-sac for black money and undeclared income investments, many experts say.
Separately, the SC also held Bahria Town responsible for encroachment on forest land in the Takht Pari area (forest land) near the capital Islamabad.
NAB was also directed to look into who authorized the illegal allotments in the Takht Pari area and pursue them in an accountability court.
In a third order issued the same day, the Supreme Court also struck a death blow to the New Murree Development Project/Scheme, which had been roundly criticized by environment protection agencies for endangering the forests and land around Islamabad.
“The persons and officials of the revenue department be proceeded against. The NAB is directed to investigate the case and file references against all those who are found responsible for committing, aiding and abetting the crime at any level or in any form.”
“We, therefore, request the Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute an implementation bench in this behalf to deal with the questions mentioned above,” the court order said.
The ruling added that the provincial government and the Forest Department take care of the disturbed/encroached areas to develop it by afforestation.
According to a report which Bahria Town placed before the Supreme Court in 2015, the real estate firm owns 40,000 acres land in different cities across the country.
Bahria Town Karachi (BTK), a sprawling, upmarket gated community is being constructed off the Super Highway in the outer reaches of Pakistan’s largest city and spreads across a huge tract of land in Malir district of the port city–more than 93 sq kms or 23,300 acres (see map).
Malir, which measures 2,557 square kilometers or 631,848 acres, is the mega city’s largest district. Much of it comprises agricultural land, nullahs, hills and wildlife sanctuaries, including parts of Kirthar National Park.
Located just off the Super Highway, 9kms beyond Toll Plaza, the BTK complex’s wide thoroughfares, generously proportioned residential schemes, commercial belts, 36-hole international standard golf course and the world’s seventh largest mosque promise a utopian existence away from the urban jungle of Karachi proper.
According to an investigative report by local daily Dawn published in April 2016, “corrupt officials from the Board of Revenue (BoR) Sindh, MDA, the district administration and police have all colluded with Bahria Town in various ways to make a colossal fortune off government land.”
The Sindh government surreptitiously allotted thousands of acres of government land to Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz, according to a report placed by the Pakistan Rangers during a meeting of the National Action Plan’s Sindh Apex committee in May 2015.
Military sources told Dawn the meeting was held on 14th of the month. The Rangers told the Committee the provincial government had allotted 44,000 acres of government land to Bahria Town. Sources had told the paper the land allotted to Bahria Town was along the Super Highway in the outskirts of Karachi.
“The 23,000-plus acres so far ‘acquired’ by BTK (or 44,000 acres as reported by the Rangers) are also home to scores of historical sites, including tombs similar to the Chawkandi necropolis near Thatta, as well as Buddhist stupas, rock carvings etc.
Every tomb in the path of construction has been ruthlessly scooped up by bulldozers and cast aside like trash, the Dawn report said.
“Their centuries-old symbolic markers and motifs have not stayed the juggernaut of ‘development’ and bottomless greed,”” the report said.
On March 9, 2016 a NAB representative informed the Supreme Court bench hearing the Karachi unrest case that at least 104,000 plots have already been sold by Bahria.