Reality behind DHA Case
While taking suo motu notice of a private TV programme which did not point out other side and facts by raising the alleged land corruption of Rs. 40 billion in the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI), a three-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry ordered on July 19, this year to freeze all the bank accounts of Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
In this connection, Additional Director General (Legal) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Azam Khan told the court that DHA issued allotment letter of 321 canal land and in return EOBI paid Rs15 billion. Citing unrealistic reasons, he accused that the land was sold on low price. He further said that there was no development on ground which remained barren, and only files were issued, while violating the rules in this respect.
But, the learned Counsel of DHA Ahmer Bilal Sufi was not even allowed to give arguments. The court also objected that as to how a government institution can hold a partnership with a private entity.
Besides, the bench ordered the FIA to continue its investigation and proceed against officials of EOBI and DHA, and also arrest those responsible in the scam.
Following the hastily-direction of the court, on July 21, the FIA conducted a raid to arrest former chairman of the EOBI Zafar Gondal in the federal capital.
Without any doubt, the court decision appears to have come in hurry, as DHA has not been given a chance to present their viewpoint. DHA Legal Counsel, Ahmer Bilal Soofi, has prayed to the court to allow some more time enabling DHA to present their case. He further revealed that after Rs. 22 billion transactions with EOBI, Rs. 11 billions were given to Habib Rafique and Bahria Town for development of 321 Kanals, while EOBI members have also been allotted plots.
Even media reports reveal that development work has also been completed, but EOBI failed to take over the plots. Similarly, affected people who purchased plots agreed that FIA did not present the complete details of the case to the court.
However, we need to know the reality behind the DHA case. In this regard, DHA officials made it clear that EOBI submitted a request to DHA for the purchase of two properties–221 kanal land in the Business Square and 100 kanal land in the Business Corridor in September 2011. They added that the sale agreement was concluded with “mutual consent”, and subsequently the properties were sold to EOBI in January 2012.
The officials stated that since then, allotment letters for both the properties have been issued to EOBI, while clarifying that DHA had requested EOBI to take possession of the land in January 2013.
The DHA officials elaborated that the rates for the two properties were ‘quite competitive’ and were established after the advertisement and sale of adjacent properties in the same time-frame—DHA even offered EOBI a 5% discount on sale price. So, it proves legal stand of the DHA that the entire land has been transferred and mutated in the name of DHA and allotment letters of sold property have been issued to EOBI as per procedure and established practice. It is worth mentioning that letters of allotment are considered a valid mode of transferring title in all land regularity bodies like CDA and LDA etc. and also used as bankable security.
They indicated that development of infrastructure and utilities in the Business Square area were complete, and were 90% complete in the Business Corridor area. In line with the agreement, residential and commercial plots are 100% complete and ready for possession, whereas, 45% defence villas have been constructed, which are ahead of the scheduled progress. Notably, current market value of the sold property has increased by about 20% in the last 4 months.
This fact was even ‘acknowledged and documented’ by the FIA teams who visited the areas on July 15 this year. In these terms, its shows contradictory approach of the FIA.
It is mentionable that DHA officials further explained that the development of the two areas may also be evaluated by Nespak, as suggested by the FIA in its interim report submitted to the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, on July 17, the apex court gave 48 hours to the DHA for deposit of Rs. 22 billion with the office of SC registrar, or face freezing of all its accounts which were actually freezed. All the concerned military personal, retired officials and the civilians who invested their money (Saving) in purchasing plots were badly affected on freezing of the accounts. These stakeholders were shocked on court’s unilateral verdict, while people whispered around that a grand design against DHA was in the offing as political elite and judiciary desired to bring DHAs under political fold or civilian control.
In fact, the amount received from the sale of said property was utilized for procurement of land, development of infrastructure and service utilities including development of roads and provision of underground utilities such as surface drainage, electricity, sewerage, water and gas etc. Hence, DHA does not possess sufficient liquid assets in its accounts to deposit the required amount.
Moreover, it had a stirring impact on all those associated with DHA owing to its quality services and foolproof systems to ensure safety of land against any frauds and wellbeing of residents. Presently, DHA has become a lucrative enterprise and a model for all housing schemes in the country by providing comfortable and affordable living to retired officers of the armed forces and civilians without any discrimination. In addition, DHAs’ town planning and maintenance standards are excellent due to top quality by providing inexpensive recreational facilities to the residents.
It is because of these reasons that more civilians prefer to reside in DHAs than those of retired officers of the armed forces, as civilians are allowed to purchase plots from actual allottee-officers who sold their plots at proper price.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations