LAHORE: The Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday formed a committee to ensure the provision of alternative land or payment of compensation money to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) City mega housing project affectees.
The orders were issued during a suo motu hearing conducted by a two-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, at the Lahore registry.
The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the committee – comprising Punjab chief secretary, provincial housing minister, officials of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and others — to should submit a report within 10 days regarding the resolution of the issue.
On this occasion, CJP Nisar remarked, “If the LDA City case did not concern widows and orphans then today all bureaucrats involved and owners of the [development] companies would have been in jail.”
He said Paragon City, Alfa Estate, and other companies were acting like “pimps”. “I have used a stinging word on purpose so that these people realise [their wrongdoings],” he said.
The counsel representing the mega city project, Advocate Ahsan Bhawan, said the development companies will provide land for LDA City within two to three years. He recommended that the time be reduced for the land provision.
At this, the chief justice said if the four companies required to provide land, including Alfa Estate, do not do so within a year, then the contract with them should be cancelled.
CJP Nisar urged that the land should be acquired quickly and be allotted to the LDA City affectees. The counsel said that the land acquired so far had been transferred to the name of LDA City.
The counsel further informed the court that the companies had sold 9,000 registration files in excess and that 20,000 kanals of land was still needed to be allotted to the affectees.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, the other member of the bench hearing the case, said: “Why doesn’t LDA complete the project on its own? It is such a big company. It should complete the project itself.”
To this, the counsel responded that the company “does not have the required funds to do so”.
The chief justice reacted, “Trust is a major factor in such matters. With this, trust in LDA will be completely terminated.”
The counsel said that 19,000 kanals of existing land was “scattered”. The CJP immediately responded, “This has been done on purpose. LDA’s former employees and companies were all in connivance. If it were me, I would have personally conducted a trial of these people.”
The LDA’s counsel further stated that the development companies had given them ‘C’ grade land which prompted the chief justice to state, “They had their vested interests. You should file a case against these companies.”
Advocate Bhawan said that 300 kanals of expensive land had been given to LDA but it has not been transferred yet. He said that if 5,000 kanals more land could be arranged then phase-1 of LDA City could be completed.
Hearing all this, the chief justice grew highly exasperated and asked for the owner of Paragon City. “Where is Nadeem Zia?” he asked in annoyance.
The NAB’s investigation officer present in the court informed that Zia had become an absconder in an inquiry pending against him and that red warrants for his arrest would be released soon.
“Do you know where he is hiding?” asked Justice Ahsan to which the NAB officer replied in negative. He further assured that he will be located soon by the accountability watchdog.