–SC seeks replies from Punjab govt, former PM in 14 days
ISLAMABAD: A joint investigation team (JIT) probing the transfer of Pakpattan shrine land on Tuesday accused incarcerated former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of illegally allotting Auqaf Department’s land during his tenure as Punjab chief minister.
Previously, the top court had formed the JIT to probe the alleged role of Nawaz Sharif as chief minister in the transfer of the shrine’s land.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar had observed that the documents submitted before the bench showed that Nawaz Sharif had transferred the Auqaf Department’s land to a private owner. However, Nawaz apprised the court that he could not remember anything about the matter.
Terming Nawaz’s reply “vague”, the bench had asked him to appear and personally explain why he had de-notified the notification giving ownership of the land to Auqaf department.
On Tuesday, Nawaz’s counsel Barrister Munawar Iqbal told the court that the former premier had rejected the allegations earlier. The chief justice responded that the lawyer was playing a role akin to the person “more loyal to the king than the king himself”.
He expressed his displeasure at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader’s repeated denial and warned that he may approach the Anti-corruption Establishment to register a case.
Hussain Asghar, who heads the JIT, told the court that the land originally set out for Hujra Shah Mukeem and Darbar Hafiz Jamal was also illegally allotted.
He clarified that it was beyond then-chief minister’s mandate to transfer the land, and recommended that the land is retrieved and Nawaz, then secretary to chief minister Syed Javed Iqbal Bukhari, the legal heirs of Deewan Ghulam Qutub Din, assistant administrator of Auqaf Pakpattan during 1969 and 1986 as well as the patwaris of the area “where these irregularities and illegalities were committed” are prosecuted.
The top judge noted that the land was illegally allotted in 1986, and asserted “no one will be able to save themselves” if an investigation is started. Regretting that “crooks acquired the land and sold it forward”, he wondered how it came to pass.
The JIT head further accused that all of the land was illegally allotted during Nawaz’s tenure, and the court had previously issued two inquiry reports in this regard, in 2015 and 2016. The first contained the ousted premier’s name but the second had excluded it.
Dismissing the possibility of yet another report, the chief justice noted that “times have changed”.
The court then summoned responses from the Punjab Government and the former prime minister to the JIT report within two weeks.
As per the revenue record from 1947 to 1958, Dewan Ghulam Qutab and his family were considered owners of the shrine’s land.
The family sold the land to different people until Jan 1, 1970, when the Punjab government notified that Auqaf Department as the rightful owner of the land and assigned Dewans the role of custodian of the shrine. When Dewans moved the court, the Lahore High Court decided against them.
In 1986, the government withdrew its 1970 notification and the Dewans reciprocated by withdrawing their appeal from the Lahore High Court against the decision.
This withdrawal of notification allowed the Dewans to resume their land selling business and the revenue department issued ownership rights (fard) to all buyers.
However, a 1981 case regarding 17 marlas land filed in a civil court reached the Supreme Court by 2015. The apex court chief justice took suo moto notice of the land deals of the shrine and summoned officials of the revenue and Auqaf departments and the Dewans.
After some hearings, the Supreme Court declared notification of Aug 28, 1986, illegal and nullified all land deals done since then. The decision reportedly affected 100,000 residents of different localities.
The Dewans filed a review petition with the Supreme Court against its 2015 decision which remained pending.