Tuesday July 16, 2024

Bureaucrat’s brother fails to fulfil NAB plea bargain terms

By Fakhar Durrani
August 12, 2022
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) office in Islamabad. — APP
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) office in Islamabad. — APP

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) entertained a unique plea bargain offer from the brother of a senior civil servant, but it has failed to recover the amount from him so far despite the submission of a power of attorney by the bureaucrat who served at key positions in Punjab under the PTI and PML-N governments.

Babar Hayat Tarar — a BS 22 officer from Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS), with his siblings, submitted a power of attorney and pledged their inherited land against the NAB plea bargain deal in case his younger brother, Yasir Hayat Tarar, fails to deposit the amount. The documents however show the officer is not among the accused persons now. Babar Hayat Tarar served on key posts under the PTI and PML-N governments. He remained Senior Member Board of Revenue, Punjab in Buzdar led government, and also served as Secretary Cooperatives Department, Additional Secretary to Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Chief Secretary Northern Areas and Commissioner Sahiwal Division during the previous government of PML-N.

The NAB, in its official case update file, has confirmed that the accountability bureau is yet to recover the two installments from Yasir Hayat Tarar as agreed in the plea bargain deal. Yasir Tarar was supposed to deposit the second and third installments on May 2, 2022 and August 2, 2022, but he failed to do so. It is, however, not clear whether NAB has confiscated the land pledged by the accused and his family against the plea bargain deal.

The documents available with this scribe reveal that while conducting investigation against the office bearers of Cooperative Department and Management & Developers of Professional Cooperative Housing Society Ltd, Lahore, NAB Lahore unearthed that Yasir Hayat Tarar plundered Rs.811.23 million in connivance with Management Committee of the society.

After rejection of bail from Lahore High Court, he entered into a plea bargain with NAB Lahore, which was approved by the NAB Regional Board early this year, and then endorsed by NAB court.

Interestingly, plea bargain was finalized on the basis of a power attorney held by Babar Hayat Tarar while he serving as Senior Member, Board of Revenue. He transferred 130-Kanal land in villages Ghang Shareef, and Jhedu in Lahore suburb, in favour of The Professional Cooperative Housing Society Limited Lahore as down payment of plea-bargained amount of his younger brother Yasir Tarar on basis of the power of attorney.

It may be noted the NAB Regional Board permitted Yasir Hayat Tarar to deposit Rs637 million in three transactions. Also NAB Lahore relied on the minutes of District Price Assessment Committee (DPAC) while calculating assessed price of land transferred by Babar Tarar as a down-payment by his younger brother Yasir Tarar. It would be interesting to note if the NAB has ever extended such a generous offer and exceptional treatment to anyone else since its inception.

The official record of the minutes issued by the DPAC reflect certain serious discrepancies. A copy of the minutes dated September 18, 2021, available with this correspondent, suggests that the land transferred by Babar Tarar from villages Jhedu, Tehsil Model Town, Lahore, was assessed by the DPAC at the rate of Rs2.5 million per kanal, making the total assessed value of 90 kanal and 6.5 marlas transferred in favour of the society at Rs. 225.81 million. Besides, the land transferred by him from Mauza Ghang Shareef, Tehsil Raiwind, Lahore in favor of the Society was assessed at the rate of 2.4 million per kanal. Therefore, the total value of 40 Kanal, 7 Marlas and 125 square feet was assessed at Rs.96.91 million. The combined value of land transferred in favour of the society was assessed at Rs 322.72 million.

It is reported that ADCR Lahore was transferred by the Buzdar government before this assessment as the previous ADCR, who is also land collector, refused to sign the overvalued assessment. However, scrutiny of records proves that the value was assessed exaggeratedly.

The documents show that the per kanal DC rate of land falling in Mauza Ghang Shareef was Rs.1.25 million. Similarly, the DPAC assessed the land in Mauza Jheda at 2.5 million per kanal. However, DC rate of land in Khasra numbers from where land was forfeited was Rs6,25,000 per Kanal.

The official record shows that the cooperative housing societies in Punjab are being regulated under the Cooperative Societies Act 1925 read with Cooperatives Rules 1927, by the Punjab government’s Cooperative Department. However, in 1997, the then provincial government of Shehbaz Sharif imposed a ban on the registration of new housing societies.

The record shows that on November 23, 1989, a society with the name of The Fine Cooperative Housing with area of operation limited to Lahore city, was registered bearing registration number 1349. However, it remained dormant for 25 years.

On March 31,2014, the then PML-N government in Punjab appointed Babar Hayat Tarar as Secretary Cooperatives Department. On April 2,2014, an application was moved to the Registrar Cooperatives for reactivating Fine Cooperative Housing Society. As a result of the Special General Meeting, the name of the society was changed on December 27, 2014 as The Professional Cooperative Housing Society Limited Lahore. The Area of its operation was also extended throughout the Punjab. The bye-laws of the society were also amended. Subsequently, the society launched a project with the name of “Lahore City Garden”.

The sources informed that to execute this project the society entered into an agreement with a firm “Asian Developers” whose Managing Directors included Yasir Hayat Tarar. Though a proper advertisement mentioning reasonable experience in land purchase and development as a fundamental criterion was floated in the newspapers for hiring of a land developer firm, M/s Asian Developers (Pvt) limited was selected despite the fact it was created a week ago.

The administration manager of Fine Cooperative Housing Society vide letter dated September 12, 2019 informed the NAB Lahore that the record regarding bidding documents of other land providers and developers was not found except the profile of M/s Asian Developers. He also shared with the NAB that no record of evaluation criteria (technical or financial) and evaluation sheets was available in the society. This fact spells out that M/s Asian Developers was selected without competitive bidding.

The documents also reveal that Muhammad Ilyas, partner of Yasir Hayat Tarar, was member of Executive Committee of the society until May 6, 2015 and became Managing Director of M/s Asian Developers after three or four days, even prior to proper resignation from the Committee of the Society.

The record further demonstrates that the then Registrar Cooperatives Javaid Iqbal Bukhari declined to allow joint venture and amend its bye-laws aimed at expanding society’s ambit from Lahore to the whole of the Punjab. In his order, the registrar inked that there was no provision for Joint Venture in Cooperatives Act 1925 read with Cooperatives Rules, 1927.

Aggrieved by this order, the Committee and M/s Asian Developers went into appeal to Babar Hayat Tarar, the then Secretary Cooperative Department, who despite his visible conflict of interest due to involvement of his brother, did not recuse from hearing the case and pronounced an unprecedented order. He not only set aside the decision of the Registrar Cooperatives but also went a yard further by allowing the society to sign a joint venture agreement and further allowed it to operate in the whole of Punjab. The appeal was speedily disposed of within seven days.

After the benevolent decision of the Secretary Cooperatives Department, the Management Committee of the Society signed an agreement with M/s Asian Developers Pvt Limited on June 22, 2015 wherein it was categorically stipulated that the developers had to purchase land within the area of Mauzas Jia Bagga and Karyal, Lahore, adjacent to the proposed Lahore Ring Road.

It was also articulated in the agreement that the developers would provide raw land at the rate of Rs9,50,000 per kanal to the society. But surprisingly, later on, this rate of provision of land was first enhanced to Rs2.5 million per kanal and later on Rs3 million per kanal without any plausible justification. To justify the exorbitant increase in price of land, Yasir Tarar provided photocopies of the letter pads of some property dealers depicting that the price of raw land increased.

However, during investigation it was revealed that the photocopies were bogus. Yasir Tarar’s company had received Rs811.23 million from the management committee of the cociety while 56 plots were developed and transferred. The Sub-Registrar’s office record unfolded that the said land was purchased by the Developers in Rs164.85 Million, much less than the price paid by the office bearers of the Society.

Moreover, the land provided by M/s Asian Developers was in chunks and pieces with considerable distances from each other, which was not suitable to establish a housing society. Yasir Hayat Tarar’s firm was bound to deliver plots within 36 months of signing of the agreement. However, since June 22, 2018, no development had been made on site and none of the plots handed over to the members of the society.

Furthermore, as per agreement, he was bound to get a layout plan approved from LDA, however, it was never approved by the authority, and strictly legally speaking, the society is still illegal.

The minutes of NAB Regional Board meeting suggest that plea bargain offer of Yasir Hayat Tarar amounting to Rs637.34 Million was approved on the condition that he would make a down payment of Rs. 322. 71 Million in the form of transfer of land measuring 130 Kanals, 14 marlas land situated in Mauza Jhedu, Tehsil Model Town Lahore and Mauza Ghang Shareef, Tehsil Raiwind Lahore in favour of Professional Cooperative Housing Society Limited, Lahore. Within next six months of the down payment, he would deposit the remaining amount in two installments. Within three months of down payment, he would deposit Rs157.31 million as first installment and within six months of down payment, he would deposit Rs157.31 million as second installment. The price of land considered for down-payment of plea bargained amount was calculated on the basis of a report of DPAC whereby the price of land was assessed exaggeratedly, while beneficiary’s brother was Senior Member Board of Revenue of the province.

The Court record unfolds that Mr. Babar Hayat Tarar himself appeared in the Court of Asad Ali, Judge Accountability Court No.1, Lahore and deposed in writing that in case his brother defaulted on remaining plea bargained amount, his inherited share in property detailed as land measuring 4-Kanal, 11-Marlas situated in Mauza Hafizabad and his inherited share in property detailed as land measuring 50 Kanals, at mauza Rasool Pur Tarar, Tehsil Pindi Bhattian, District Hafizabad be adjusted against the payment of plea bargain installment to the extent of his (Babar Tarar) share.

Legal experts dealing with NAB Cases believe that Babar Hayat Tarar’s acts of transfer of land to the society to settle down payment of his younger brother’s plea bargained amount and the deposition before court as standing surety for the remaining two installments could be interpreted as a plea bargain, in fact, done by Babar Tarar for his brother.

The News sent a detailed questionnaire to Babar Hayat Tarar who later called back to this scribe and gave his detailed version. “For the last four years I was dragged time and again and NAB held a thorough investigation but found nothing against me. Yasir Hayat is my real brother and due to family tradition and bindings I have to own him,” said Babar Hayat Tarar. He maintained, “After my father passed away on December 1,, 2021, we automatically inherited the land from him. Since the land was from inheritance, all of our siblings had to sign a power of attorney to pledge the land for Yasir’s plea bargain deal with NAB. However, this has been scandalized in the media that why did I give a power of attorney on behalf of my brother.”

Babar Hayat Tarar further said, “Yasir Hayat was not a member of the housing society. He was rather a developer who had to acquire land for the housing society. Unfortunately, my father had to allot the land to fill the deficiency as Yasir was not fulfilling the demand of acquiring required land. During this process my father died and we inherited the land automatically after my father’s death.”

To a question about manipulated land assessment, Tarar said their property’s value is far higher than the liability. He said the NAB approached the Deputy Commissioner directly and asked for the value assessment of the property, adding there is a committee comprising different members from various departments. How could all the committee members be influenced for this purpose, he asked.

“If the property was overvalued then NAB should have rejected it or raised its concerns. I still believe our property’s value is far higher than the assessed value,” he said.

Talking about amending the bylaws and extending the housing society across the province, Babar Hayat Tarar said his brother was not the member of the society. He said the members of the housing society decide about the bylaws and then they approach for the amendments. He said the registrar of the cooperative department is the competent authority to approve the societies. If the members of the housing society decide to extend any housing society across the province, it is their prerogative, he maintained, adding if there was anything wrong or illegal in his order regarding approving the amendments in bylaws, these could have been challenged in any court because the secretary’s decision was not the final verdict. Any member of the housing society could have challenged it in the court, he added.

When asked if his brother has paid the remaining two installments as agreed in the plea bargain deal, Babar Hayat Tarar said he is not aware of it. “But if he hasn’t deposited the remaining installment, we, the family members, are not going to pay it from our share in the land that has been pledged before the NAB. Yasir has to pay it from his own inherited land’s share,” he said.

He said the timing of this news story is very sensitive as after serving three months as OSD (On Special Duty), he is probably getting an important posting and this story is an attempt to stop this appointment.