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RDA, Bahria Town lock horns in land dispute

RAWALPINDI: A multi-billion rupees plot in Saddar has become a bone of contention between the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) and Bahria Town after the civic body began constructing the main metro bus station on the land.

The RDA is the executing agency of the metro bus project which will run from Flashman’s Hotel in Rawalpindi to Pak Secretariat in Islamabad.

The plot measuring 2,069.43 sq metres has an approximate market value of over Rs4 billion.

The plot was initially owned by the Revenue Employees Cooperative Housing Society (RECHS).

In October 2004, property tycoon Malik Riaz had initiated the process for the merger of RECHS with Bahria Town.

The society’s land was proposed to be converted into Phase-9 of Bahria Town, and members of the RECHS were to be accommodated accordingly.

Earlier in 2004, the then provincial minister for cooperatives, Malik Mohammad Anwar, opposed the merger terming it against the rules but the then chief minister, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, relaxed the rules and allowed the merger.

The housing society lays claim to the plot which the civic body intends to use for the metro bus station
However, once the merger was completed, Bahria Town management sold the land to the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in 2006.

The aggrieved RECHS members then approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) and contended that instead of developing plots, Bahria Town had sold the land to DHA without compensating them or providing them alternative land.

On June 21, 2012, LHC Justice Shahid Saeed of the Rawalpindi bench declared the merger illegal, and directed the director general Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) to investigate the matter.

The Bahria Town management, however, filed an intra court appeal in the LHC in July 2012, and the LHC division bench after preliminary hearing issued a stay order against the judgment of Justice Saeed.

After the RDA initiated the metro bus project and took over the plot, the Bahria Town management filed a petition in the LHC and requested the court to stop the authority from utilising the plot.

The RDA on the other hand in its written reply contended that as per record available with the authority the plot was owned by the government of Pakistan and managed by Military Estate Office.

Qaiser Qadeer Qureshi, a legal adviser of Bahria Town when contacted, said the government had no right to use private property for public service.

He said despite the stay order, the RDA was carrying out work on the land under the metro bus project.

“We had also filed objections with the land acquisition collector (LAC) but they are still pending adjudication,” he added.

When asked that the plot had already been developed into the main station for the metro bus service, Qureshi said Bahria Town had the right to seek compensation from the provincial government if the LHC decided the matter in the housing society’s favour.

Published in Dawn, August 31, 2014

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