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Bahria Town Gets Clean Chit As SC Accepts Rs460bn Offer

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The Supreme Court on Thursday accepted Bahria Town Karachi’s offer to pay Rs460 billion in lieu of the lands it occupies in the Malir district of Karachi and stopped National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from filing references against it.

The apex court had reserved its ruling in this regard last week. A fresh offer by the Bahria Town (Pvt) Limited was made in the previous hearings, to settle a case pertaining to its Malir or Karachi Super Highway project by paying Rs450 billion. The Supreme Court accepted the offer in its verdict today, raising the amount to Rs460bn.

The real estate development company will be required to pay the entire amount over a period of seven years. The court ordered Bahria Town Karachi to pay Rs25 billion by August this year and from September onward, it will have to pay monthly instalments of Rs2.25bn for the next three years.

In case it does not submit two instalments, Bahria Town Karachi will be considered a defaulter.

Twitterati reacted to the news and expressed disappointment at Bahria Town being given clean chit in exchange for money.

 

BACKGROUND

Bahria Town, the real estate development company owned by business tycoon Malik Riaz, has been under prosecution for illegally acquiring land for its projects in Karachi since April last year. In January, the Supreme Court turned down Bahria Town’s offer to deposit RS 250 billion to escape legal proceedings.

In a ‘landmark’ verdict issued in May, the apex court had barred Bahria Town Karachi from selling any plot or apartment in the housing scheme.  The massive swap between Malir Development Authority (MDA) and Bahria Town, Karachi was declared null and void. Five months later, while hearing petitions filed by Bahria Town against the May judgement, former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had asked Malik Riaz to pay at least one trillion rupees to compensate for the illegalities committed.

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The then chief justice stated that Pakistan needed Rs1.5 trillion for the construction of dams, and asked Riaz if he could build one. The top judge had suggested that Riaz could escape the legal proceedings being carried out against him if he agrees to build a dam. In response, the business tycoon told the court that he had already deposited Rs7 billion, adding “I request the court to have mercy.”

The court received criticism for offering the accused a way to avoid the due legal process.

MEDIA BLACKOUT

Meanwhile, mainstream media had been silent over the Bahria Town controversy, allegedly because a number of media owners and anchors have received favours from Malik Riaz.

Most anchors appeared worried about the Bahria Town employees who hadn’t received their salaries amid the controversy. But there was hardly anything on the mainstream media against Bahria Town’s financial shenanigans.

THE METHOD TO BAHRIA TOWN’S MADNESS

In 2016, a startling report published in Dawn revealed that Bahria Town Karachi’s success is dependent on ‘manipulation of the law’ by land officials. With the help of influential figures in the establishment, the officials used ‘the state’s coercive powers to deprive rightful owners of their land’. What is worse is that this was all projected as ‘development’.

The report gave an insight into how Bahria Town does what it does and also successfully gets away with it. In March 2016, several police mobiles surrounded Juma Morio Goth, a small village in district Malir, about 13 kilometres north of the Super Highway. Bulldozers and dump trucks were also brought in by the police.

The plan was to demolish a number of small huts so that a road leading to Bahria Town could be built through the village. One of the residents was quoted as saying, “The job was quickly completed and the rubble hauled away while hapless villagers looked on in a daze.”

The affectees knew there would be no justice for them. Another resident said that the police had been arresting their people for resisting. “We were threatened that they’d show our arrest as being from places such as Wana, Mastung or Kalat.”

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The families of those detained said the local PPP representatives told them that if they wanted freedom for their missing men, they would have to give up their land. “What choice did we have except to surrender,” one villager was quoted as asking. In other villages around district Malir, there were similar accounts of residents being forced to sell or abandon their land.

No news channel picked up the story as ‘breaking news’. No clarification was given or sought as Malik Riaz and Bahria Town seemed to be above the law.

MALIK RIAZ’S MANY CONTROVERSIES

In 2012, a behind-the-scenes footage showing anchors Mubashir Luqman and Mehr Bokhari doing a ‘planted’ interview with Riaz surfaced on social media. Both anchors were seen telling Malik Riaz about the kind of questions they will be asking. The video further showed the anchors being instructed by the management against interrupting Riaz during the interview.

The clip also showed Malik Riaz receiving a call during the interview from then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son, Abdul Qadir Gilani, whom he referred to as ‘bunny’.

On 28th April 2017, two people reportedly died and many received severe injuries at Bahria Enclave, Karachi, when the seating stalls suddenly collapsed during an event organised by ARY Zindagi. Once again, media did not give coverage to the incident (deliberately of course), and no inquiry was done to find out the cause of the accident.

According to some eyewitnesses, the loss of lives was higher than what was vaguely reported by some media outlets. Some witnesses also accused the management of leaving the site as soon as the stalls collapsed and shutting down the lights as a cover up.

The darkness made it harder for the wounded to get help. Several people including women and children sustained severe injuries including fractures and spinal cord damages. However, no questions were asked. No anchor felt the need to find out whether the incident was caused due to criminal negligence.  This shows how the media has been supporting Malik Riaz.

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