The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday approved filing of a reference against Ejaz Haroon, former chairman of the Pakistan International Airlines, Abdul Ghani Majeed of Omni Group and others in an accountability court for their alleged involvement in illegal allotment of plots in Overseas Cooperative Housing Society, Kidney Hills, Karachi.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the bureau’s executive board presided over by NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal.
According to a press release issued by NAB, the suspects were also involved in making payment for the plots through fake bank accounts which inflicted heavy losses on the national exchequer.
Karachi Commissioner Navid Ahmed Shaikh informed the Supreme Court (SC) that part of the Kidney Hill Park’s land was also illegally occupied by the Overseas Co-operative Housing Society.
Supreme Court sought an implementation report from the commissioner on the evacuation of the park’s land and issued notices to Farhan Society and Overseas Co-operative Housing Society.
Meanwhile, an accountability court on Wednesday issued a written order confirming the report filed by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on freezing the ‘properties’ of Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwala.
Tthe investigating officer of NAB, Assistant Director Mudasar Hussain testifying before the NAB court, said that both Haroon and Mandviwala embezzled government land through fraudulent allotment of plots of Overseas Cooperative Housing Society (Kidney Hill Karachi). He also expressed apprehensions that Mr Mandviwala may dispose of the shares.
NAB submitted a report stating that former chairman of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) “Aijaz Haroon and Saleem Mandviwala, in connivance with each other, embezzled the government land through illegal and fraudulent allotment and received illegal and unlawful gains of Rs144.2 million from fake bank accounts namely A-One International and Lucky International under the garb of business deal or property transaction with Abdul Ghani Majeed, chief executive officer Omni Group.”
Accountability judge Mohammad Bashir said that the statement of the investigating officer is self-explanatory as to why freezing order passed by DG NAB should be confirmed under the circumstances of the case.
Giving details of his appearance in the NAB, Mandviwalla said the NAB opined that ‘we are beneficiary in the case’. “We have had friendship with Aijaz Haroon for the last 35 years and assisted him in the land deal, but we have no link with the money transaction,” he said.
It is to be mentioned that the NAB Rawalpindi had arrested accused Mohammad Aijaz Haroon, former chairman of the Pakistan International Airlines, in the same scandal.
In 2008, Sindh High Court (SHC), while hearing the petitions of former City Nazim Naimatullah Khan and others against the proposed conversion of Kidney Hill area into a housing scheme, ordered that the record of the Overseas Housing Society (OHS) land be produced on the next date of hearing.
In same year, the Plaintiff Ardeshir Cowasjee also filed a lawsuit in the SHC against the agreement of settlement between the City District Government Karachi (CDGK), the Karachi Cooperative Housing Societies Union and the Overseas Housing Society (OHS) for carving out over 66 percent of the area of Kidney Hill/Ahmed Ali Park.
Petitioners’ counsel submitted that the agreement was void under Section 23 of the Contract Act and contrary to applicable laws that no amenity plot can be converted for any other purpose and the agreement of settlement is barred.
Cowasjee’s counsels, Rizwana Ismail and Khursheed Javed, expressed fear that if the park was converted into a housing scheme, the supply of water to many people would be affected, adding that the conversion of a public park into a housing society was a violation of applicable laws. It was the contention of the counsel that the main water hydrant was situated in the Kidney Hill area for supplying water to approximately 0.5 million households as it supplied water to the entire PECHS, Bahadurabad, and other areas of Jamshed and Gulshan Towns.
The Cousel of Cowasjee requested the court to declare the agreement void and declare that Kidney Hill (KDA Scheme Falaknama) was earmarked as a public amenity area solely for recreation of the people of Karachi and could not be converted from park to any other use. The SHC’s single bench comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed (now CJ SCP) after preliminary hearing of the lawsuit issued notice to defendants and in meantime order status quo on the lawsuit.
The kidney-shaped hilly area was declared a park in the early 1960s but the Overseas Pakistanis Co-operative Housing Society claimed that it was allotted to it by the Karachi Development Authority, since merged into the city district government. The dispute was litigated for decades without any work on the proposed public park till a compromise was reached between the claimant society and the city district government in the Supreme Court in 2006. The proceedings were joined by the non-governmental organization Shehri-Citizens for Better Environment, which pressed for maintaining the amenity status of the plot in the public interest.
Shehri, however, challenged the compromise in the high court as the CDGK and the housing society could not reach a settlement in derogation of law. It said the compromise was reached behind its back though it was a bona fide party to the dispute.
The law was now well entrenched that an amenity plot could not be converted into a commercial or residential complex.