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Zardari’s Islamabad property still frozen under NRO

ISLAMABAD: Despite the Capital Development Authority’s controversial decision to fundamentally change the zoning regulations of its Zone-III, defined as a protected Margallah Hills National Park area, President Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal might not benefit from this jackpot immediately because the 2,400 kanals of their Sangjiani property is still frozen under the NRO decision.

Islamabad revenue department sources however confirmed that following the NRO decision, the ownership of this land had not been reversed to the pre-NRO situation, and thus it can’t be sold until it is de-frozen despite being in the name of Park Lane Estate Private Limited – jointly owned by President Asif Ali Zardari, his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and a few others – early this year.

As per the Supreme Court’s order in case of the NRO, the land was to be reverted to its last owner and the alleged front man of the President, Nasir Khan. However, the Islamabad administration did not annul this transfer of land but did indicate in the revenue record that it can’t be transferred to a new owner any further. Silently but controversially the Capital Development Authority has of late approved fundamental changes in the zoning regulations of its Zone-III, defined as a protected Margallah Hills National Park area, which once implemented would instantly multiply the fortunes of President Asif Ali Zardari who along with his son Bilawal owns 2400 kanals of land in the same region.

This change in the zoning regulations has allowed the selected area of this Zone III to be used for commercial purposes that include farm housing, golf and country club, five-star hotel, medium rise apartments, wedding lawns, public building etc. To the good luck of President Asif Ali Zardari, his agriculture land that was purchased through his alleged front man in mid-90s would become commercial land as soon as the new regulations are approved by the federal cabinet.

Prior to the issuance of the NRO in October 2007 by Gen Musharraf, the same land was one of the frozen assets and its then legal owner Nasir Khan was not allowed to sell the property, which was also reflected in the assets cases of both Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari before October 5, 2007 when the NRO was promulgated.

The Park Lane apparently purchased 2,460 Kanals (307 acres) in March 2009, valued at a CDA price of over Rs2 billion, for a mere Rs62 million from Nasir Khan.

On February 19, 2009, almost one month before the transfer of the same land, the then Chief of Staff NAB Brig (R) Muhammad Ashfaq Ashraf wrote a formal letter to Deputy Commissioner Islamabad, conveying Bureau’s order regarding de-freezing of the property of Nasir Khan. The said order of the NAB made the transfer possible. Senator Saifur Rehman in 1997-98 made a case against Zardari for allegedly buying the same land in the name of his alleged fron tman Nasir Khan.

The deal, which Zardari was accused of in 1998, was thus completed this March, 13 years later, after a complex process of legal cases, suits and counter-suits, between a person once declared by the then government as a front man of Asif Ali Zardari, another person believed to be closely associated with the president and a private company that is jointly owned by the president, his son and a few others.

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