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Action sought against ‘illegal’ sale of KPT land worth Rs450m

National

May 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Transparency International (TI) Pakistan has written a letter on Friday to Chairman Karachi Port Trust (KPT) against alleged corruption by KPT Estate Department to allow sale of KPT land worth Rs 450 million by a lessee of KPT in May 2020 after expiry of lease in March 2019.

TI Pakistan Chairman Sohail Muzaffar in the letter states that a purchaser has issued a public notice on May 11, 2020, in a leading newspaper asking for any objection in seven days to the purchase of said KPT property from the lessee.

The TI Pakistan holds that initial grant of five-year lease of the said KPT property of 4,466 sqm to Karachi Steel Industries was irregular as it was against the ban imposed by the then prime minister on allotment of KPT land on temporary basis in May 2014.

The letter asked the KPT chairman to act against concerned officials in the case under Section 9 of National Accountability Ordinance 1999.

The letter pointed out that the lease of Plot No 16 West Wharf road Karachi owned by the KPT measuring 4,466 sqm expired on March 31, 2019, and its sale by Karachi Steel Industries Pvt Ltd is prima facie illegal.

The allotment was initially done for only three months but the KPT Board extended it for five years on Nov 27, 2014, despite the ban enforced by the prime minister. In fact the Planning and Development Division of KPT gave NOC for five years for only 1,000 sqm but the KPT Board extended it for 4,466sqm against its own procedure.

The TI Pakistan notes that the KPT estate department did not take possession of its property as per lease terms even after the expiry of the illegal lease in March 2019.

The letter also pointed out that there was a plethora of litigation involving KPT land worth billions due to wrong doings of its own employees. In a letter in early 2017, the TI Pakistan had pointed to such manipulation in which KPT estate department under its manual allots KPT land for three months on temporary basis. Later, the department and influential parties prevails on the KPT Board to extend such temporary allotment for as much as 25 years. And those whose temporary allotment is cancelled get stay orders from the courts and continue to use KPT land. That’s what led the prime minister to ban in May 2014 temporary allotment of KPT land. In 2014 on TI Pakistan complaint, KPT had cancelled allotment of 12 plots which were arbitrarily given. The TI Pakistan has been pressing for auction of KPT land under open bidding on transparent basis.

Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi, when contacted about TI Pakistan letter, stated that he had already told the KPT management to propose a comprehensive policy regarding new leases and renewal of leases of KPT land and related matters as there were complaints and litigation about it. He said his focus was on transparency and non-discriminatory treatment of all cases regarding KPT land. He said that new policy will ensure best value for KPT land and improvement of related business activity. Zaidi added that as far as the particular case in TI letter, KPT management will respond to it as per law.

KPT Chairman Rear Admiral Jamil Akhtar, while contesting the facts in TI Pakistan letter, held that the said land never fell under category of temporary allotment well before partition, so PM ban on temporary allotment does not apply. He added that lease of this land was duly extended on Jan 31, 2019, well before expiry of lease for 25 years and question of failure to take over the land did not arise. He further stated that if KPT land is sold by a lessee, transfer of plot is done after KPT Board approval after payment of transfer fee and there was nothing irregular if the lessee is selling to another party. The title of land always stays with KPT during lease term in such a case. He added that the Ministry of Maritime Affairs had banned fresh allotment to improve criteria and process and only renewal cases were being processed. And that the KPT had won 250 out of 500 KPT land cases in different courts in last two and a half years which were pending for years.