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Malik Riaz questioned by SC

05 October, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Malik Riaz had a lough day at the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday where honourable justices grilled him about Bahria Town Karachi’s land swap agreement with the Malir Development Authority (MDA).

At one point in the hearing, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar made him an offer to settle the matter by depositing a trillion rupees into the Dam Fund. He said if Riaz was unwilling to pay, he should get ready to face trial on the merits of the case.

The chief justice said Pakistan needed Rs1.5 trillion to build dams, and asked Riaz if he could build one for the country.

Referring to the land in question, Riaz responded, “Why should I pay Rs10 for something that is worth a rupee.”

He continued, “I have already deposited Rs7bn in the court. I request the court to have mercy.”

The five-member SC bench was reviewing petitions filed by Riaz’s property empire – Bahria Town – and investors against the top court’s ruling in the land allotment.

The court took exception to the land swap, noting that the MDA’s prime real estate was taken in exchange for barren land alongside the Balochistan border. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that the MDA was handed poor quality land in return.

The court said that public land was given to Bahria ‘through deceit’. “Gold was given in exchange for silver.”

Private investors and residents of the housing colony also attended the hearing where they defended the Bahria Town for providing a safe environment to its dwellers and introducing a secure investment opportunity in Karachi.

The court wondered if these attributes could make up for illegalities in the land swap deal. “A [consolidated chunk of land] was taken from the MDA and in return it was given bits and pieces,” the chief justice said, and asked the MDA what losses it had suffered in the exchange. To the court’s surprise, the MDA said it did not suffer any losses in the transaction.

The CJP exclaimed, “Malir says it did not suffer any losses; the Sindh govt says it did not suffer any losses … they are all in this together.”

He even hinted at sending the MDA managing director to jail for not cooperating with the court.

Riaz, meanwhile, argued that land swaps have been practiced in Sindh since 1982. “Almost 70 such land swaps have taken place,” he said. “Bahria swapped four villages with the MDA, for which Rs4 billion were deposited into the national treasury. Rs360 million were also deposited as payment for water bills.”

Bahria Town counsel Ali Zafar told the court that his client was in possession of 1,800 canals of MDA land, and was willing to pay an additional Rs5bn to settle the matter. Riaz also argued against involving the National Accountability Bureau, claiming that “hundreds of thousands of people will get unemployed” if the project fell apart.

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