ISLAMABAD: The accountability body of the Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has received an official report from the Housing Ministry that shatters an eight-year-old perception that the incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) has never been given a piece of land by the government.
CJP Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was allotted a one-kanal plot during former President General Pervez Musharraf’s reign – which he owns to date in Islamabad’s residential sector G-14/4.
Though it was recently reported that a number of judges – including several former chief justices of Pakistan such as Riaz Ahmed Sheikh, Ajmal Mian, Irshad Hassan Khan and others – had been allotted plots in Islamabad since 1996, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was the only name not seen in the lists.
It was also widely disseminated through the media that the incumbent chief justice had not been given a plot. However, an allotment to the CJP was made soon after the 2002 general elections – which took place after the Supreme Court had endorsed the October 12, 1999, coup and gave sweeping mandate to General Pervez Musharraf to amend the Constitution. A list compiled by the housing ministry of plot allotments to bureaucrats, judges and journalists spread over hundreds of pages, available with The Express Tribune, shows that Justice Chaudhry, then a Supreme Court judge, was given a one kanal plot on Dec 18, 2002 – six days after his 54th birthday.
The official documents further reveal that the then CJP Sheikh Riaz Ahmed was also allotted a plot on Dec 17, 2002, while two judges of the Lahore High Court, Justice Faqeer Mohammad Khokar and Justice Mumtaz Ali Mirza were also allotted plots in G-14 on the same day.
The report about the allotment of plots was submitted by the housing ministry after the Public Accounts Committee chairman Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had issued directives to furnish a list of all those who were allotted plots in Islamabad since 1996.
Interestingly, Nisar did not seek a list of such allotments from 1991 when Nawaz Sharif, his party’s chief, had first become the prime minister. He also did not direct the ministry of defence to submit a list of land allotted to military generals who have been regularly getting agricultural land in the fertile areas of the country, the Seraiki region in particular, at a rate of under Rs180 per acre.
One official was of the opinion that Nisar did not issue such instructions as he has a military background himself. His father was recruited during the colonial period and his brother Lt. Gen. Iftikhar Ali Khan served as defence secretary during Sharif’s government.
However, the papers presented before the PAC reveal that, unlike the other 15 judges of the SC, Justice Chaudhry did not take a second plot in Islamabad. This despite the fact that under the revised policy of the government, approved by then prime minister Shaukat Aziz, he and his colleagues were entitled to two plots. CJ Chaudhry also did not apply for a plot under the curious recent scheme of the “Prime Minister Assistance Package”, meant exclusively for judges – unlike the 17 other judges of the Supreme Court who got plots through this scheme.
The present government is said to have also offered to allot a second plot to the CJP – but he has declined the offer. At the time of his refusal, it was widely reported in the media that he did not own any plots in Islamabad – a ‘fact’ that has now, given the official list of the housing ministry, been rebuffed.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2010.