ISLAMABAD: The issue of land allotments to the higher judiciary took a new turn after it was disclosed before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that residential plots worth millions of rupees were allotted to three top judges apparently without completing mandatory legal formalities.
As the official files of the Federal Government Employees’ Housing Foundation (FGEHF) do not contain the dates of birth of the judges, the question of allotments on verbal orders, as opposed to proper procedure, comes to the fore.
The set criteria requires an applicant to fill out an official form and give an affidavit that he or she does not own other plots or houses in the city.
According to the official documents placed before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), copies of which are available with The Express Tribune, the three judges are former chief justice of Pakistan Sheikh Riaz Ahmed and Lahore High Court (LHC) judges Faqeer Mohammad Khokar and Justice Mumtaz Ali Mirza. Ahmed was allotted a one-kanal (approximately 600 square yards) plot on November 17, 2002, in G-14/4, while Khokar and Mirza got plots in G -14.
This flouting of rules raises several questions over the allotment process and its transparency. One hundred judges, including the current Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, have been allotted plots in Islamabad since 1996, but these three judges were allotted plots without fulfilling legalities.
An official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that missing records meant that these judges had not filled out the proper official forms. “It seems that orders were verbally issued and immediately obeyed by the [allotment] authorities,” the source said. “The top guns of the FGEHF clearly failed to follow the rules and simply obliged the sitting judges of the Supreme Court (SC) and the LHC.” The missing record, the source said, showed that the housing ministry was unaware of when these judges were born and joined the judiciary, and whether they were retired or were still serving.
The documents reveal that the FGEHF allotted plots in the same manner to some civilian officials, whose dates of birth were also missing from the records.
One of these officials is Nadeem Shah Malik who was working as a financial adviser to the ministry of housing and works. He was allotted a plot in Sector G-13/2 on December 22, 2009.
Nine other civilian employees were also allotted plots in Sector G-14 despite incomplete records. These officials are Khalida Begum (Intelligence Bureau), Rashida Begum (Pakistan Post), Aziza Begum (finance ministry), Resham Jaan (Survey of Pakistan), Shamim Akhtar (finance division), Fehmida Begum (Pakistan Post), Ziat Maman (customs department), Sardari Begum (Pakistan Post), Maryam (agriculture department).
Earlier, media reports said that some well-connected SC judges tampered with the FGEHF’s official records and received a second plot each. The reports claimed that several critical files, which contained official records of expensive government plots allotted to bigwigs of Islamabad such as [now retired] Justice Sardar Raza Khan, were missing. Evidence surfaced that in Justice Raza’s case, the process of balloting was scrapped and he was given a multimillion-rupee corner plot of his choice. The then FGEHF director-general Arshad Mirza, a District Management Group officer and a relative of Justice Raza, was accused of tampering with Justice Raza’s records to enable him to acquire a second plot. These reports were never challenged.
After reading these media reports, PAC chairperson Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had ordered an inquiry against Mirza, a report of which is also pending before the PAC. Amid this scam, Mirza was also removed from office.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2010.
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