ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari and his son and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto have been summoned by NAB on December 13 in connection with Park Lane Estate Pvt Ltd, which had purchased 2460 kanals of prime land in Islamabad in March 2009.
In 2009, The News reported that a private company owned by Zardari and his son Bilawal Ali Zardari purchased 2,460 kanals of prime land in Islamabad in March 2009, valued at a CDA price of over Rs2 billion, at just Rs62 million. In a 1997 NAB case against Mr Zardari, the same land was associated with the former president but it was dropped then for lack of evidence.
According to the report, what Zardari was accused of in 1997, was completed in March 15 years later, after a complex process of legal cases, suits and counter-suits between a person once alleged as “front-man” of Asif Ali Zardari, another person believed to be closely associated with the former president and a private company that was jointly owned by Zardari, Bilawal and a few others.
Referring to documents and legal papers, including the sale deed and court judgments given by the then PCO-led Islamabad High Court, The News report showed that a Karachi-based private company, Park Lane Estate Pvt Ltd, had purchased almost 2,500 kanals of land near Sangjani from Faisal Sakhi Butt, who himself purchased the land from a Pakistani American living in Houston, Texas in USA, named Muhammad Nasir Khan, for merely Rs62 million.
Nasir Khan was the original purchaser of this land in 1994 and was alleged by NAB in 1997 to be the front man of Mr Zardari in the Ehtesab Bureau reference filed against him in 1997.
However, all the legal requirement were met and followed in the purchase and transfer of this land from one man to another and then to Park Lane Estate Pvt Ltd, which was a Karachi based company. According to the Form-A Annual Return of the company, its share capital, as reflected in the SECP record then, showed it had 120,000 shares of which Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari own 30,000 shares each.
Zardari was shown as a director and his son was a member with four others who appear as members and debenture holders.
In 1997 the Ehtesab Bureau of Mian Saifur Rehman, initiated a case against Mr Zardari while the FIA had arrested some persons in the case. Media reports in 1997 had then stated that Zardari had forcibly acquired this 2,500 kanals of land uprooting 300 families to set up a polo ground and a riding pavilion in Sangjani, 25 minutes from main Islamabad.
Former Ehtisab Bureau chairman Saifur Rehman had told a news conference on June 10, 1997 that the then chairman of CDA, now late Shafi Sehwani, a PPP-appointee, was also involved in the land scam. Some local residents including Sardar Ishaque, Raja Mehboob Elahi and Haji Bashir had appeared before reporters and had claimed that they had been forced to sell their land at a throw away price in 1994 and Zardari wanted to build a polo ground in Sangjani.
It was then alleged that a US resident Nasir Khan had been used as a front man by Zardari. According to a 1997 news report Nasir Khan was instrumental in making deals with the owners, whose lands were forcibly acquired by the revenue administration of Islamabad not for any official projects but for private ownership of Nasir Khan, who was acting at the behest of Mr Zardari.
In his complaint, one Ishaq narrated at that time the details of how he was summoned in August 1994 by the then Tehsildar of Islamabad Tariq Haidri and taken to the PM House to convince him to sell his land, 392 kanals 8 marlas, at the rate of Rs4,000 per kanal, which even at that time was much below the prevailing market price. Ishaq was later forced to sign an agreement at the residence of Nasir Khan and told that if he did not cooperate, his land would be acquired through CDA at the rate of Rs2,900 per kanal.
From 1997 till 2009, nothing changed on the ground as Nasir Khan, the alleged front-man of Mr Zardari, remained the legal owner of the land. NAB also could not do much in this case because of some key missing links. However, in an important development in 2007 Faisal Sakhi Butt, another friend of Mr Zardari, filed a civil suit in an Islamabad civil court claiming that he had purchased the same land measuring 2460 kanals and 17 marlas on 18-1-2007 from Nasir Khan for Rs62 million.
He told the court that in May 2007, he paid Nasir Khan Rs61 million, leaving balance of Rs1 million. Butt said that he wrote to Nasir Khan, who was settled in Houston USA, to execute the necessary sale deed in his favour before Sub Registrar, Islamabad but did not receive any reply. He prayed before the court for a judgment and a decree against the defendant, Nasir Khan.
Nasir Khan in his reply from USA did not contest the charges and conceded almost everything that Butt demanded and explained that due to his business pre-occupation coupled with ill health he could not leave USA and come to Pakistan for execution of sale deed in favour of Butt. He also did not deny the prayer clause and allowed the court to proceed in favour of Butt after paying balance sale consideration of Rs1 million to him through his counsel.
Accordingly the civil court in June 2008 decided in favour of Butt and referred the case to the PCO Islamabad High Court where Butt had gone for the execution of his decree. On Nov 11, 2008, Nasir Khan’s counsel told the IHC that he has no objection to the execution of the sale deed through an official of the court in favour of Butt or his nominee/assignee. Butt’s counsel stated that he was going to file the assignment deed in the court, therefore, an adjournment for three weeks be granted.
The court fixed December 16 as the next date for hearing of the case. On December 16, 2008 Mr Zardari’s Park Lane Estate Pvt Limited figured for the first time when Butt’s counsel told the IHC the decree as well as rights ensuring from the decree has been assigned in favour of Park Lane Estate of Karachi by Mr Butt for which a new execution petition would be filed on behalf of Park Lane Estate the same day.
It was done accordingly and quickly and the case was turned from the previous Faisal Sakhi Butt vs. Muhammad Nasir Khan to Park Lane Estate (Pvt) Limited vs. Muhammad Nasir Khan (defendant) and Faisal Sakhi Butt (original decree holder). According to this petition, Mr Butt sold to Park Lane Estate his decree. The Park Lane Estate told the IHC that it had paid Rs46 million to Butt as per deed of assignment dated 27-11-2008. Consequently on January 29, 2009 the then PCO chief justice of the PCO IHC passed the order which led to the transfer of land to Zardari and Bilawal’s company.
Everything went smoothly and hassle free. Nasir Khan and Faisal Butt cooperated in a perfect manner and transferred the land to Park Lane Estate, owned by the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari.
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