Tuesday June 18, 2024

49-year-old document and Malam Jabba skiing resort case

By Usman Manzoor
December 18, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The twisting tale of Malam Jabba skiing resort case allegedly involving the KP’s ex-chief minister Pervaiz Khattak and senior bureaucrat Azam Khan has some interesting claims and twists which may solve the riddle, as almost half-a-century-old document that originated from the office of Wali-e-Swat states that the questioned 275 acre land for the resort was a gift from him to the Tourism Department.

A copy of the document is available with The News. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is investigating whether the land, allegedly claimed by the forest department, has been leased out to a private company in violation of rules.

However, the land has remained controversial for decades, as different government departments have been claiming its ownership, especially the Pakistan Tourism Corporation Limited, as Wali-e-Swat had gifted this land in 1969 for a skiing resort but it could not be transferred to the PTDC.

Sources say the revenue department enlists it as the forest land and claims its right [to the land] and it is because of such claim that a case has been built against the former KP chief minister and senior bureaucrats.

A letter dated February 17, 1969 from Chief Secretary Swat State to Department of Tourism, Government of Pakistan (address Club road Karachi-4) states: "Reference to our talk, I am pleased to inform you that five acres of land for hotel building would be charged Rs8000/acre. The rest of the land for skiing course about 270 acres would be free of cost. This has the approval of his highness (Wali-e-Swat).”

The NAB has been provided with a letter dated 13-01-1999 written by the PTDC to Commissioner Malakand that the 275 acres land in Malam Jabba be transferred to the PTDC instead of the provincial government and protected forests in the revenue record.

Another letter dated 11-10-2004 written by the Ministry of Tourism to chief secretary of the then North West Frontier Province and now KP states that the said 270 acres land was graciously gifted by Wali-e-Swat for establishment of ski-cum-summer resort at Malam Jabba in 1969.

The letter says that the land issue became complicated with the passage of time and therefore the said land be transferred to Malam Jabba Resort Limited. Similarly, many letters from Sarhad Tourism Corporation and Ministry of Tourism were written to the KP government for transferring the land in the name of federal government so that a proper skiing resort could be established at Malam Jabba.

When the PTI’s government came into power, they decided to develop the Malam Jabba skiing resort site therefore they went for open bidding. Importantly, a high level meeting chaired by Chief Minister KP in April 2016 decided that the Samson’s Group of companies will donate eco-friendly barbed wire to the environment and forest department for fencing of the entire area for security of the visiting tourists.

In September 2016, Divisional Forest Officer Swat, wrote a letter to the private company stating that it was decided in a meeting with deputy commissioner Swat on 26-08-2016 that Samson’s Group of companies will provide building and erection material and technical hand beside barbed wire for fencing of protected forests in Malam Jabba as donation.

The forest department will erect the fencing in protected forests. The same officer then intimated his subordinates to initiate the erection process well in time. But when the process was ongoing, in March 2018, the same forest department of KP lodged a first information report against the company for encroaching the forest land.

By then, the company had installed a chairlift at the site which was inaugurated by the PTI chief Imran Khan.

Last month, the NAB also stopped the KP government from deciding the ownership of Malam Jabba skiing resort apprehending that any backdated approval may not be given but the NAB at the same time says it is the revenue and tourism department that will decide to whom the land belongs.

The KP had constituted a 10-member committee to look into all aspects of difference of opinion on the land ownership rights issues between the tourism department and forest department regarding Malam Jabba Skiing resort.

The ToRs of committee read:

Was the land in question provincial government land immediately after merger of Swat state or was it given to the federal government prior to merger, and was it the federal government land. Which provincial department is the rightful custodian of the land in question? Whether the revenue entry pertaining to the land in question is correct or erroneous and reasons there for. Submit recommendations.”

Sources in KP government say if the land ownership is settled, the NAB might not have any case against anybody.