The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) to operate its accounts and release the salaries of its employees. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, accepted the application filed by DHA’s counsel and former attorney general Irfan Qadir, to release Rs57.6 million for disbursement of salaries among the employees of DHA Islamabad and Rawalpindi, on account of Eidul Fitr.
The Supreme Court had earlier frozen all of DHA’s accounts due to its alleged involvement in the multi-billion-rupee Employees’ Old Age Benefit Institution (EOBI) scam.
The court asked Qadir to furnish the statement of balance and also place before the court all documents relevant to the assertions made by advocate Zulfiqar Maluka and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) about non-execution of a land sharing agreement between DHA and the Capital Development Authority.
While hearing the suo motu case regarding purchase of 18 different properties by the EOBI, the bench comprising Justice Jawwad S Khwaja and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that it seemed that a major portion of the land, purchased by the EOBI from DHA was actually not owned by the latter.
Advocate Zulfiqar Maluka, appearing in public interest, informed the court that DHA and CDA had signed two agreements, in 2007 and 2008. Under the agreements, a 2,412 kanal land owned by the CDA would be handed over to the DHA, in exchange for 800 developed plots.
Initially, the DHA tried to take over possession of the land in areas of Humak, Sihala and Rawat against the charges in accordance with the price paid by CDA for acquiring the land. However, the CDA only agreed to give its land under the formula that for every four kanal raw land, one kanal developed plot would be received by the CDA. The DHA was supposed to hand over the developed land within 30 days after signing of the agreement.
Advocate Maluka said it had been six years that the land had not been handed over to the CDA and that the DHA allegedly had unlawful possession of the land. Maluka further said that the land was acquired by CDA some 50 years ago to construct Islamabad Highway but the road project was abandoned and the land remained unutilised.
FIA Additional Director General Law Azam Khan informed the court that an evaluation report prepared by National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK) regarding the property purchased by EOBI in DHA showed a difference of Rs2 billion, indicating that the sale agreement was not against EOBI’s interests.
The report however revealed that price of other properties, such as Crown Plaza in Islamabad and land in Chakwal, were bought by EOBI at much higher rates.
Meanwhile, the court pointed out to EOBI’s counsel Advocate Muhammad Bilal, that in 2009 National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had expressed reservation over the investment of funds by EOBI in private sector. The counsel informed the court that in the minutes of the 86th EOBI Board of Trustees meeting, it was informed that the government had varied the approval of 18 properties ignoring the objections raised by the PAC.
The chief justice inquired from the counsel whether before conducting the transaction, the EOBI had an arrangement of getting the documents of properties duly vetted by legal experts. Bilal informed the court that Babar Sattar, EOBI’s legal expert in Islamabad, was of the opinion that the transaction was against Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2013.