The National Accountability Bureau on Wednesday filed a reference against real estate tycoon Malik Riaz and many others for illegal allotment of an amenity plot in Karachi’s Clifton area where the Bahria Town built Pakistan’s tallest building, Bahria Icon Tower.
The reference is said to be an offshoot of the fake accounts case against former president and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur. It is also a first reference in which Malik Riaz, the chairman of the Bahria Town, is nominated. NAB also nominated his son-in-law Zain Malik as one of the suspects.
Other suspects are former Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Yousaf Baloch, former adviser to Sindh chief minister Dr Dinshaw Anklesaria, former Sindh chief secretary Abdul Subhan Memon, former director general-parks Liaquat Qaimkhani, Waqas Raffat, Ghulam Arif, Khawaja Shafique, Jamil Baloch, Afzal Aziz, Syed Mohammad Shah, Khurram Arif, Abdul Karim Paleejo, Khawaja Badee uz Zaman and others.
Contrary to its past practice, NAB — which is otherwise very prompt when issuing a press release even in the stages of inquiry and investigation mainly against opposition leaders — this time did not issue any statement or share any detail about the reference with the media.
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However, the reference that NAB filed before the registrar of the accountability court stated that the accused persons caused a loss of over Rs100 billion to the national exchequer through illegal allotment of an amenity plot related to Bagh Ibne Qasim, where Bahria Town constructed its Icon Tower.
NAB alleges Bahria Town built Pakistan’s tallest building on Karachi’s Bagh Ibne Qasim land
The skyscraper is located near the coast of the Arabian Sea in Karachi and it includes 62 storeys with 40-storey mixed-used buildings.
After scrutiny, the registrar office will forward the reference to the administrative judge of the accountability courts, Mohammad Bashir.
Last year, former Sindh works and services secretary Sajjad Abbasi, who was arrested in June 2019 for his alleged involvement in the Icon Tower case, became an approver.
In a statement to the court, he said that he sold an amenity plot to Dr Anklesaria while he was working as the executive district officer-revenue. He claimed that Dr Anklesaria then sold that plot to Malik Riaz, who constructed the Bahria Icon Tower there.
It may be mentioned that during a hearing of the post-arrest bail of Ms Talpur in the fake accounts case, Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked the investigation officer of the case as to why those who were involved in Rs750 million transactions through fake accounts were never arrested. The IO said that the Bahria Town chairman was on top of the list and NAB was trying to trace his and other suspects’ whereabouts.
Expressing his displeasure over the lethargy of NAB, the CJ observed, “This is how NAB exercises power to arrest people […] NAB does not have unfettered power of arrest.” Later, the court granted bail to Ms Talpur.
It may be recalled here that former Karachi mayor and Pak Sarzameen Party chairman Syed Mustafa Kamal and others are also facing a NAB reference regarding alleged illegal allotment of around 5,500 square yards of commercial land to Bahria Town for a multi-storey building.
When contacted, senior Bahria Town official retired Col Khalil claimed that the real estate firm had purchased the land in a transparent manner.
He said that the case did not belong to the fake accounts case since all the payments regarding purchase of the land were made through cheques from genuine and verified accounts.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020