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October 3, 2017

9.2-acre army land rented out for marriage lawns, SHC told


October 3, 2017

A 9.2-acre army land near the FTC flyover has been rented out to set up six temporary wedding marquees, the management of the marriage lawns recently told the Sindh High Court (SHC) in its counter-affidavit.

The affidavit was submitted in a public interest litigation filed by some citizens disputing the conversion of a piece of military land into marriage lawns. Dr Waqar Saeed and other petitioners said plot No 183 along Korangi Road was sanctioned for a medical supplies depot of the armed forces but was illegally allotted to a private company to set up six wedding marquees.

They said the company was advertising that the marquees could be rented for Rs100,000 to Rs500,000 despite the fact that the relevant authorities had not conducted an auction of the land.

They added that plot categories A-1 and A-2 could not be used for any other purpose except defence, and requested that the SHC direct the authorities to cancel the illegal allotment of the plot for wedding marquees.

However, Mohammad Aslam Siddiqui, the sole proprietor of the private company, said wedding marquees were being managed by his company Maham Enterprises, and denied that Global Marquees was allotted 40-acre A-2 land that was originally sanctioned for a medical supplies depot of the armed forces.

He said his company had entered into an agreement with the Pakistan Army for 9.2 acres next to the NICL Building along Korangi Road that was lawfully owned by the V Corps headquarters and was rented out to his company for five years starting on July 11, 2016.

He added that the agreement was subject to the condition that when required by the army, the company would be given a three-month notice to vacate the plot, and that the property was unsurveyed and classified as A-1, not A-2.

He also said the property was converted to “commercial” for a limited time and for a specific purpose after completing the due legal process and seeking an agreement with the army.

Regarding the petitioners’ objection that no public notice was auctioned, Siddiqui said there was no need for a notice to be published in any widely circulated newspaper or any auction to be held in terms of the public procurements rules.

He denied the claim that the marquees caused gridlock or increased traffic congestion or road blocks because the property had a car park that could accommodate 800 vehicles. He said the land was not rented out on a permanent basis, adding that the fixtures could easily be removed if the army urgently required the plot back.

Filing a rejoinder, the petitioners said the counter affidavit proved to be fraudulent, adding that the people of Karachi were cheated by Maham Enterprises with the connivance of the Military Estate Office, the Karachi Cantonment Board and the retired and serving officers of the V Corps HQ.

They said it was a matter of shame for an institution like the army to rent out land to corrupt people without following the public procurements rules. They added that the rules were applicable to the army and Maham Enterprises, and that the agreement did not mention the amount of rent to be paid by the company, which was being run by a man with the notorious reputation of “land grabber”.

The petitioners said the V Corps HQ did not have the authority to allot an amenity plot to a civilian, adding that massive corruption had undoubtedly been carried out, and that the matter should be forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau. They said the documents submitted by the company showed that they razed a footpath, which was meant for the people and was constructed at the cost of the public exchequer.

They added that the Supreme Court had earlier ordered handing over almost all the lands allotted to the military to the Karachi Development Authority, and that it was a matter of record that A-1 and A-2 lands could not be used for any other purpose except for defence, so the land in question was illegally allotted.