ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Saqib Nisar asked Bahria Town Chairman Malik Riaz to pay at least one trillion rupees to discuss a land swapping case against him on merit, further suggesting that the property tycoon can also opt for building a dam instead.
A five-member bench of the SC was hearing review petitions filed by Bahria Town and its investors against the top court’s judgement in a land allotment case which declared a massive land swap between Bahria Town Karachi and the Malir Development Authority (MDA) illegal.
While hearing the case, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that MDA’s ‘prime real estate’ was taken in exchange for barren and invaluable land alongside the Balochistan border.
Justice Nisar concurred that Bahria Town acquired the land from the Sindh government through deceit saying “gold was given in exchange for silver”.
On a point raised by an investor that their investments were being affected, Justice Nisar said, “So you are saying that we should forgive them [Bahria Town] no matter how much they have plundered?”
Deliberating on the stance, Justice Khosa wondered if the court should make an exception for illegal work just because the development done on it was excellent.
When inquired if the MDA incurred any losses in the controversial exchange, the authority’s counsel replied in negative saying that the MDA did not suffer any losses.
Irked at the response, Justice Nisar remarked, “Malir says it did not suffer any losses, the Sindh govt says it did not suffer any losses.”
“That they are all in it together,” he observed. The top judge remarked that MDA’s managing director should be sent to jail.
Riaz, meanwhile, argued that land swaps have been practised in Sindh since 1982 and almost 70 such land swaps have taken place. He explained that Bahria Town had paid Rs 4 billion for four villages swapped with the MDA besides paying Rs 360 million for water bills.
Later, Bahria Town counsel Ali Zafar told the court that his client was in possession of 1,800 canals of MDA land, and was willing to pay an additional Rs 5 billion to settle the matter.
The chief justice remarked that Pakistan needed Rs 1.5 trillion to build dams, and asked Riaz if he could build one for the country. He also told the property tycoon that if he could not come up at least one trillion rupees, the case would be discussed on its merits alone.
Riaz contended that he would not pay Rs 10 for something that is worth a rupee, asking the court to reconsider as he had already deposited Rs 7 billion in the court.
“I request the court to have mercy,” he added.
Riaz also argued against involving the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), claiming that hundreds of thousands of people will get unemployed if the project fell apart.
Zahid Bukhari, the counsel for Bahria Town investors, echoed Riaz’s sentiments, saying, “If Bahria sinks, Pakistan sinks.”
Irked at the response, the chief justice advised the counsel to think before speaking. “The judiciary is here to protect Pakistan,” he stated.
Bukhari clarified that he was talking only in economic terms.
The court session was subsequently adjourned for 30 minutes.
When the hearing resumed, Justice Nisar said, “The Sindh chief minister had no right to authorise the swap of MDA land.”
“When the country’s prime minister does not have the right to allot even a shack to anyone, how did a chief minister exercise this right? This is why we say whatever is happening in Sindh is not right.”
The chief justice also wondered why Riaz was afraid of NAB proceedings. “If others can face their cases in NAB, why can’t Malik Riaz do the same?” he asked.
The case was later adjourned till next Thursday.