The land utilisation section of Sindh’s revenue department has allotted 500 acres of highly valuable land in Malir to the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) at throwaway prices, The Express Tribune has learnt.
This piece of land off National Highway belongs to category ‘A’, whose market value is estimated to be around Rs2 billion. But, it was sold to the air force for a mere Rs250 million to build an Airmen Cooperative Housing Society for its employees. Officials claimed that the records were tampered with and the land was marked as category ‘B’ to lower the price.
“The minimum value of this land is Rs4 million per acre but the [revenue] department has given it at away for only Rs0.5 million,” a senior official of the revenue department told The Express Tribune, requesting not to be named. “This deal has violated Section 4-B of the law seemingly because state land cannot be given at a lesser rate,” he said, referring to the Colonisation of Government Lands Act, 1912.
The revenue department confirmed that the land was sold to the air force but it has not been transferred due to the Supreme Court ban on fresh allotment of state land, explained a senior member of the Board of Revenue, Malik Israr, who heads the scrutiny section of the department that makes these decisions. Why was an expensive piece of land given away for such a meagre amount? “It is the scrutiny committee’s decision and the per-acre rate is reasonable for a cooperative housing society,” said Israr.
Such decisions are made by the scrutiny committee of the revenue department, which determines the market value for allotment of different kinds of state land. The committee is headed by the senior member of the Board of Revenue. Its other members include the land utilisation secretary, the finance secretary, a representative from the investment board, the relevant deputy commissioner of the area and two private members from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to sources privy to the development, the matter of this land in Malir was referred to the scrutiny committee for its approval in 2012 but it was opposed by the then finance secretary. He suggested increasing the land’s value, which delayed the agreement for a few months. However, the chief of air staff reportedly contacted the Sindh chief minister, who approved the summary using his discretionary powers.
Siraj Kassam Teli, who happens to be a member of the scrutiny committee, claimed he was unaware of the decision. The chief minister might have made this decision by using his discretionary powers, he said. “We, being private members, are consulted and taken into confidence whenever the government allots land for an industry,” he explained, adding that all the decisions about the disposal of land are made on merit.
Meanwhile, a senior official working in the PAF confirmed that the agreement has been made but the possession has yet to be given. “Soon after the agreement, the apex court placed a ban, on November 28, 2012, stopping the government from allotting revenue land due to massive irregularities in the records,” he said. “Since then, we have been visiting government officials to get final possession but to no avail.”
Since possession has been delayed, the PAF has started dumping their belonging on the site in Deh Kotearo in Malir, said the Malir deputy commissioner, Qazi Jan Muhammad. “Despite the ban, the officials of the air force are insisting the government give them final allotment,” Muhammad told The Express Tribune. “They have also gone to court.” According to him, the provincial government will have no other option but to hand over the land to the forces.
PAF spokesperson Nadeem Khan sought a day’s time to comment on this issue but refused to do so later. “I cannot speak on this issue as my seniors have asked me not to comment,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2014.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ