By Ashraf Javed (“The Nation” report)
LAHORE: While terming the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s order as judicial activism, a senior official of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) has said that depositing more than Rs 22 billion on a short notice was impossible.
Talking to The Nation on the condition of anonymity on Monday, the official severely objected to the allegations of the Federal Investigations Agency (FIA) against the DHA stating that the Agency had launched a propaganda campaign on the behest of someone against the Authority, a renowned group of developers and builders in the country.
“This undue alarm and the propaganda (initiated by the FIA) can spoil the market value of the real estate giant – the DHA,” the official said. “We understand that some powers wanted to spoil the credibility and dealings of the DHA by involving State machinery through the so-called scam,” he said.
It will not be out of proportion to mention here that it was for the first time a senior official of the DHA straightforwardly discussed the EOBI scam with the media but on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The Nation has also learnt that the DHA businesses have come to a standstill since the country’s top judiciary ordered freezing of the banks accounts of the Authority with thousands of employees and dozens of offices across the country.
Sources close to the top management of the DHA revealed that apart from day-to-day operations, the payments schedules has also been badly affected since many dealers are unwilling to deposit the amounts into the DHA’s accounts amid uncertainty.
On Friday, the Supreme Court seized all the bank accounts of DHA Islamabad and Rawalpindi after the authority’ s failure to deposit Rs 22 billion with the court’s registrar’s office over the alleged Rs 40 billion corruption scandal of the Employees’ Old-Age Benefit Institution (EOBI).
“How we can deposit such a huge amount in just 48-hours. This is simply impossible. In several other cases years lapse and nothing happens. But in DHA case, the Authority is being victimised and penalised without any justification,” he said.
To a question, he said that the FIA had launched a propaganda campaign against the DHA despite the fact that it was a developed land and possession had been given to the concerned persons.
“The price of the land has swelled to manifold in the open market. Since the accounts are frozen, the authority is unable to release payments to thousands of its employees,” the official underlined.
“The FIA, infact, is misleading the public. They are trying to cover-up the incomplete and biased investigations. It is baseless that there was no development at the site and the land was barren,” DHA authorities believe.
The official also made it clear that the 221-Kanals commercial land along DHA Expressway in Islamabad was sold to EOBI in January 2012 while the request for purchase of this land was made by EOBI in September 2011.
“We are ready to prove at any forum that the development of sold land to EOBI was 100 per cent complete and in January this year, the EOBI authorities were asked to take over the possession of the sold land but they did not respond to our repeated requests.”
In the same breath, he said, we are ready to cooperate with the courts. We are ready to obey the orders of the courts but in appropriate manner.
The DHA authorities also expressed dissatisfaction over the FIA inquiry report and suggested that the State institutions must act in accordance with the law and re-investigations by an independent panel should be ordered to save the future of the developing industry.
The current market value of the sold property has increased by 20 per cent in the last four months. The DHA official also claimed that complete land including residential, commercial plots and defence villas, had been transferred or mutated in the name of the DHA and allotment letters had been issued to EOBI as per procedure and established practice. In open market these are fetching Rs 4 million and plus per marla; implying an increase of over 30 per cent as compared to cost borne by the EOBI.
This is a proof that in no way the land was sold to EOBI at exorbitant price. The DHA has complete title of the said property and the entire land had been transferred in the name of DHA and allotment letters of the sold property had been issued to EOBI as per the required procedure.
A leading real estate tycoon, when contacted, said that whenever the courts take up such real estate issue that makes headlines in the national media the property business falls because of uncertainty in the market.
“We have seen a decline in the businesses since the DHA is being involved in the mega scam. The buyers and sellers are unwilling to invest in the real estate as they consider such properties as disputed,” Amin, who wished only his first name to be published. “Even in Lahore, the DHA business is hanging in the balance,” said Amin, who work as a real estate agent for the Lahore DHA.