By Hina Mahgul Rind
KARACHI: Prime sea-front land in Karachi has been given at throw-away rates by the Karachi Port Trust to the Defence Housing Authority in a deal that has raised many eye-brows, The News has learnt. The deal was sealed in 2007 by the current chairman, Admiral (retd) Ahmad Hayat, despite the fact that other KPT chiefs prior to Hayat refused to endorse it as it went against the Trust’s interests.
The News has learnt that nine successive KPT chairmen, both from civil and military backgrounds, refused to endorse the deal on grounds of its questionable clauses. Owing to what KPT saw as its position in the matter, the issue of the reclaimed land has been a bone of contention between the KPT and the DHA for several years. KPT officials claim that the DHA had encroached on 881 acres of KPT land in 1975-76. Several heads of the KPT did not give up their claim on the land but the present KPT administration has finally “settled” the matter.
The matter was finally settled in 2007 with the KPT leasing the land to the DHA for 99 years at a very minimal rate of Rs2.50 per square meter. It was also agreed that 3 per cent of the leased land would be given to the KPT.
Private valuation puts the cost of the land in billions of rupees. KPT officials privately told The News that the deal is a strange one in which the KPT has given away its rightful property at a very low cost and done away with all the legal work it had painstakingly worked on to reclaim its land.
The case saw some action in 1985, when the KPT filed a Civil Suit (No 240/85) against the DHA over the land in question. But the DHA did not pay heed to this and continued to encroach on this land.
In 1999, the DHA agreed to lease 682 acres of KPT land and gave a written assurance for halting further reclamation work. In this regard a MoU was signed between the DHA and the KPT.† Even after the MoU, the DHA continued its reclamation work and in this regard in 2002 the KPT filed an application before the Sindh High court and pleaded it to stop unauthorised reclamation /allotment of KPT land by the DHA.
The issue was pending for many years and several KPT high-ups did not agree on leasing the reclaimed land to the DHA as it could create great problems for the port area. In this matter in 1998, the DG Ports and Shipping took a serious view of the situation and served notice to the DHA stating that serious problems would erupt in dredging due to silting and reclamation activities of the DHA as this would increase the cost of dredging. However, the complaint was ignored and the DHA continued its dredging work.
The DHA has now said that the land in Phase 8, where the reclamation work was done, is not available so the KPT will be given land in DHA-II, off Super Highway, for the 3 per cent of land the DHA had committed to the KPT. This would be in the shape of residential plots for KPT officers and the KPT agreed to accept the allotment at DHA II Phase 9 without approval of the board and authentication under the KPT Act, official sources added.
The problem does not end there. The allotment of 3 per cent land was meant for permanent employees of the KPT and for those who had completed five years of service according to the KPT rules.† KPT officials privately say that the allotment list submitted to the DHA includes a number of officers who are ineligible under the rules and four plots have been doled out to the high-ups in the Federal Ministry of Ports and Shipping.
According to KPT rules, those who are on deputation, on contract, on probation, or who have not completed five years in service as well as the chairman and trustees are not eligible for the allotment of plots.
However, the allotment lists contains the name of those officials who are not permanent and those who have not been in service for a minimum of five years. The list includes those armed forces officials who are on contract, or on deputation or even not have been in the service of the KPT for five years.
After approval from the Ministry of Ports and Shipping on July 7, 2007, the KPT administration prepared a list of its officers for allotment of plots in the DHA Housing Scheme, ignoring the date of government approval or board resolution and formulated its own criteria without considering the length of service of officers and their service record. As a result of these irregularities, some KPT board trustees resigned as they felt the leasing out the land is not a feasible decision. The trustees who resigned were Wajid Javed, Ali Raza, Wajahat Hussain, and Farooq Rahimtoola.
Pervez Younasi, General Manager Estate and Civil Works of the KPT, when contacted by The News said that it is an achievement on the KPT’s part to resolve the issue which had been pending for the last three decades and the land is on lease for 99 years and the KPT still is the owner and a conflict between two government organisations has been resolved.
He said that the DHA has been reclaiming the KPT limits and the KPT took the issue to court but the DHA continued its plan. However, in the current deal the DHA has agreed that no further reclamation will be done by it and it will give 3 per cent of the leased land to the KPT in the form of residential plots for KPT officers.
Younasi added that the DHA later said that there are no plots available in such quantity on the lease land, so now the DHA is giving the plots at DHA II which is in Super Highway. He, however, said that the KPT did not raised objection on this and accepted the offer.
Regarding the value of the plots of offered land, he said that “when government entities reach any agreement, they do not look into the market value of any property as they are not involved in any sort of commercial deal.”
On the allotment issue, he said that the cut-off date was†May 1, 2007 which was approved by the KPT management and all those who were working from the above date are eligible for the allotment of plots. The KPT official said that any body working for the KPT is entitled to all facilities irrespective whether the person is on deputation or on contract or already has been allotted plots from his or her parent organisation. “However the working duration to be eligible should be five years and those who have not completed five years have signed an affidavit that they will work for five years and that is when they become entitled to the plot,” he added. No board or government sanction has been secured for relaxation of the rules under the Act, The News has learnt.
Younasi said that at present only registration has been done and the list was taken from the computer department of the KPT. He said that proper assessment of all officers had been done and it has gone through the “proper channel” and finalised so there is no irregularity or mismanagement in the deal.
He said that all the rules and regulations have been followed and it has been approved by the board, management and the government. He agreed that usually the KPT leases land out only for 25 years and this practice is still continuing, however, in this deal the KPT has agreed for a 99-year lease.
About the effects of the reclamation, the KPT official told The News that the KPT has done all sorts of testing and in this case, “we have also done model testing and a UK-based company also did the model testing for the KPT.”
He agreed that reclamation is “not good for the harbour and for marine life” but the KPT agreed to the deal as this was the “only solution to stop further reclamation.”
When contacted, an official of the DHA confirmed that land would be given to the KPT at DHA II as there is no developed land available at the reclaimed area and the KPT wanted a developed land so the allotments will be given at DHA II.
“This will, however, take time as DHA II is in the process of development and there are some issues which need to be settled,” he added.
Courtesy: The News, 14/5/2008