ISLAMABAD: This may be the first time since his retirement that the name of former chief of army staff (COAS) retired Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has surfaced in connection with a massive land scam.
A former official from the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), retired Lt Col Tariq Kamal, on February 22 asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate whether Gen Kayani was involved in “irregularities/misappropriation” related to DHA Valley contracts or whether “his name was used by the decision makers just to benefit Bahria Town”.
However, Mr Kamal’s application may not be of any consequence, since NAB cannot take up matters related to armed forces personnel who are not working in the civil administration.
Bureau isn’t empowered to investigate armed forces personnel
The DHA Valley scam is one of 50 mega land scam cases NAB has listed before the Supreme Court. NAB is investigating alleged “embezzlement in sale, development and purchase of land”. According to the NAB report submitted to the apex court, the inquiry was authorised on Jul 3, 2010, and was scheduled to be completed on Oct 15, 2015. The bureau has estimated that the scam involves 1,310,000 kanals of land.
Mr Kayani was appointed COAS in December 2007. According to the application, the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and Bahria Town signed a joint venture (JV) contract for DHA Valley in 2008.
It states that:
“Bahria Town was to purchase 40,000 kanals of land near Phase II extension, a project planned and marketed by DHA Islamabad in 2005. Malik Riaz CEO Bahria Town, finding it difficult to purchase the agreed land verbally requested to then-Maj-Gen Asif Ali vice president DHA for permission to develop DHA valley project in DHA’s land… permission was granted in a meeting held on February 25, 2009… about 30,000 kanal (DHA) land was transferred to Bahria Town without approval of competent authority causing benefits of billions of rupees to Bahria Town.”
It goes on to say that DHA transferred “more than Rs100 billion to Bahria Town without any bank guarantee”. It claims that, despite a 100pc increase in the project cost, DHA’s profits remained the same at Rs4.5 billion and did not see a proportionate increase.
The application alleges that in January 2009, Maj-Gen Asif Ali, while chairing a meeting of the DHA executive board, instructed that the process of JV contracts be expedited because the JVs had been approved by the COAS, and also called for early completion of the projects. Bahria Town ostensibly earned billions of rupees in “undue” profits due to the signing of these JVs.
When contacted, NAB Rawalpindi Director General Zahir Shah said the bureau cannot initiate inquiries against army officials.
He said NAB has received several applications against former president Gen Pervez Musharraf, but did not initiate action against him because serving and retired army officers must be dealt with under the Pakistan Army Act 1952 if they are accused of financial embezzlement.
Similarly, when the National Logistics Cell scam surfaced in 2009, NAB was asked to investigate the matter but was held back from taking action against the three accused generals by military authorities.
The case was investigated by the army itself, and in August 2015 retired Maj Gen Khalid Zahir was dismissed from service – which entails the forfeiture of rank, decorations, medals, honours, awards, the seizure of pension, recovery of personal gains, cancellation of service benefits and other allied facilities. Retired Lt Gen Afzal Muzaffar was awarded ‘severe displeasure (recordable), while retired Lt Gen Khalid Munir Khan was not found to be involved in any financial irregularities or serious misconduct and was absolved of all charges.
However, NAB did recently arrest former DHA administrator retired Brig Javed Iqbal and former DHA project director retired Col Sabahat Qadeer Butt for misusing their authority and violating the contract by selling DHA Islamabad allotment certificates illegally and in violation of the agreement between DHA and Elysium Holdings Pakistan.
According to Mr Shah, since Mr Iqbal and Mr Butt were working for DHA – which was created through an act of parliament – the bureau can take action against them.
Retired Col Khalilur Rehman, a senior Bahria Town official, said the military authorities should be approached for a response.
When asked to comment on Monday, a military official had asked for the query to be submitted in writing, which was then communicated through email. On Tuesday, when contacted again, the official declined comment.
Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2016