Here’s How Mir Shakilur Rehman’s Incarceration Is A Case Study In State Cruelty
Mir Shakilur Rehman has been in detention for over five months now and there seems to be no case in sight against him. As most of the discussion around his case has focused on press freedom, due attention has not been given to the facts of the case. Understanding the facts and laws applicable to Mir Shakil’s case expose this exercise by NAB as nothing more than an attempt to malign and harass Mir Shakilur Rehman and his family.
A brief background of the events leading up to the case is given below. Mr. Muhammad Ali owned three pieces of land totaling 180 kanal 18 marla in three separate locations all within 600 meters of each other in Mouza Niaz Baig, Lahore, namely on Canal Bank; near the proposed Civic Center (now Expo Center Lahore); and near the proposed commercial center (now Emporium Mall). The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) acquired, under the Punjab Land Acquisition (Housing) Act 1973, the aforementioned land for the proposed Johar Town Phase-II Scheme in 1981.
Following the death of Mr. Muhammad Ali, the total land mentioned above was awarded to his seven legal heirs through an amended award dated 18 February 1986. All seven owners executed a general power of attorney in favour of Mir Shakil and submitted an application to the LDA on 4 June 1986, seeking permission to engage in interim development on their land. Through letter dated 22 July 1986, the LDA responded to the application, refusing the request for interim development, citing how the LDA had already completed the acquisition process in relation to their land holdings.
The letter issued by the LDA stated that the Chairman LDA had approved 54 plots measuring one kanal each in a compact block out of which 9 plots facing the canal and the remaining plots in the rear streets would be exempted against the 30 percent entitlement, i.e. 54 kanals, 5 marlas and 90 square feet.
After adding the area under two proposed streets (as shown on the proposed LDA map, available at the time), which would ultimately form part of a bigger plot, the total area being exempted was around 59 kanals. All seven owners and Mir Shakil had no choice but to accept this decision of the LDA. The exemption was subject to payment of development charges at the rate of Rs. 50000 per kanal and the price of the excess area was at the rate of Rs. 60000 per kanal. In effect, 70 percent of the land of the owners was kept by the LDA against a compensation of Rs. 2088 per kanal.
In accordance with the exemption policy of the LDA, the LDA had to exempt or provide developed plots but when this transaction was made, no development on the land had taken place and despite development charges being paid to LDA, the authority failed to develop these plots. Mir Shakil made timely payments of all the challans and demand notes issued by the LDA. It merits mention that none of the seven owners or Mir Shakil had ever requested for inclusion of the excess area under two proposed streets. Nor did either party request for one compact plot or express any desire towards a specific location.
On the contrary, smaller plots worth more in the commercial areas were expected as per the exemption policy. This allotment was done by the LDA itself for their own benefit to save on the cost of development and receive the price of excess land. Not to mention the smaller plots retained in the commercial area that were added to LDA land bank after allotting the one compact block in a residential area to the allottees.
LDA merged many proposed streets for the establishment of Residential Plots, Commercial Schemes or Immunity Plots. They also did such merging with respect to the LDA office itself.
On 3 March 2020, Mir Shakil received a notice from NAB to appear on 5 March 2020, owing to a complaint verification process pertaining to the exemption of 54 kanal land in Johar Town, Lahore. This transaction was one between private parties so it is beyond mind-boggling to try to understand how NAB’s jurisdiction or authority could even be invoked in this case. Further, there is no question of misuse of public funds or corruption because the transaction was a purchase of private property between two private parties. Moreover, the transaction took place over 30 years ago.
During this complaint verification process, Mir Shakil consistently requested that NAB provide him a specific questionnaire so he could submit a comprehensive reply to all questions asked of him. However, no such questionnaire was ever submitted after which Mir Shakil practically pleaded to be granted permission to note down NAB’s questions. On 10 March 2020, Mir Shakil received another call in the same matter, i.e. complaint verification. Resultantly, he prepared an interim reply to questions due to non-availability of all relevant documents.
How the arrest took place is another farce, exposing this entire exercise even further. When Mir Shakil went to NAB on 12 March, the officials there took him to a NAB police station within the same premises and informed him that he was under arrest without completing the investigation. He was kept in custody on physical remand for almost forty-eight days. He was then sent on judicial remand on 28 April, after NAB reported that his physical custody was no longer required for investigation.
During this time, the personal tragedies endured by Mir Shakil are another painful tale to narrate. While facing these trumped up and baseless charges, his brother and sister both passed away. Mir Shakil’s mother is ninety-four years old and has lost two children, while her only remaining son has been in unlawful detention for over five months now. Her own health has suffered greatly as a result.
Not a shred of evidence against Mir Shakil has been brought forward by NAB and the provisions under which he has been charged are not even applicable to his case. For example, Section 9(a)(xii) of the NAB Ordinance 1999, which is one of the sections under which Mir Shakil has been charged, relates to aiding, abetting and assisting in conspiracy with a person or holder of public office accused of an offense mentioned in sub-clauses (i) to (xi). Section 9(a)(xii) was made an offense through an ordinance dated 23 November 2002, which did not provide for any retrospective application. It is strange then that Mir Shakil has been found involved in the commission of the offense, when the land exemption occurred in the year 1986.
The entire case is absurd and makes a mockery of our legal system. Unfortunately, because the merits of the case have not been in the public domain, the uproar that should be taking place right now is not as severe. Just the very allegation leveled by NAB against Mir Shakil is hugely problematic because it was not the LDA that allotted Mir Shakil any of its land. In fact, the LDA acquired the 180 kanal 18 marla land of seven owners and Mir Shakil was the holder of the power of attorney for those seven owners. The exemption was only 30% of that land and that too was after receiving Rs. 50000 per kanal as development charges and Rs. 60000 per kanal for the excess land.
LDA had paid only Rs. 2088 per kanal as compensation for the 70% of land they kept with them to sell to the public at a rate of their own choice. What all these facts clarify is that financially, this transaction was a loss for Mir Shakil, so there is no question of corruption or misuse of public funds for any sort of unlawful gain.
It is far too brazen an abuse of our legal system to be silently tolerated or periodically condemned. There is no case here and Mir Shakil has already suffered enough at the hands of a vindictive state. Mir Shakil must be immediately released if the state of Pakistan wishes to retain any credibility or legitimacy.
The writer is a lawyer.