ISLAMABAD - The federal government Wednesday prayed to the Supreme Court to declare the award of a 49-year lease of Pakistan Railways land for the Royal Palm Golf Club, granted during the regime of former president Pervez Musharraf, void abnitio.

A three-member bench headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing the case of allotment of Railways precious land for Royal Palm Golf Course. Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2011 had taken suo moto of the case on the application of Ishaq Khakwani and Dr Mobashir Hassan.

Three retired generals Lt-Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi, Lt-Gen (retd) Saeeduz Zafar and Maj-Gen (retd) Hassan Butt are allegedly involved in fraudulent allotment of 141 acres of Pakistan Railways land to a golf club in Lahore, reportedly causing a loss of over Rs10 billion to the national exchequer.

Khawaja Ahmed Hussain, Additional Advocate General, representing the federation, said: “The contract for Golf Club was awarded in unlawful and non-transparent manner, therefore, it should be struck down and declared void abnitio.”

He made seven submissions to support his arguments, saying when any government body disposes of public assets then there should be a public advertisement and that itself must enable the parties to identify with clarity what is offered to them.

He said in the advertisement the Railways land offered was 103 acres, but actually granted 140 acres land, as the parties had demanded that the quality Golf Club could not be established on 103 acres. He further submitted that in the public tender process one can’t enter into private negotiation.

The AAG also argued that in the public tenders only the pre-qualified parties could participate, but in that deal things happened differently. The Railways land price was not evaluated before awarding the lease.

The basis of the deal was on percentage revenue, while food and beverages were excluded, while on the lease land restaurant and marriage halls were established.

“No reserve price and no projection were done before award of the lease,” he said. The private parties were granted agreement entirely different from the bids.

Earlier, Mian Allah Nawaz, counsel for the petitioner Ishaq Khakwani, argued that there was no transparency and advertisement for the lease of valuable Railways land in Lahore for golf club. He said it was not clear under which provision of law the then Railways authorities had awarded the lease.

Upon the query of Justice Saqib Nisar, the lawyer informed the court that the property was transferred to the private owner during the tenure of Pervez Musharraf in 2000. Justice Saqib stated the valuable land was transferred during the period of usurpation, adding at the time of agreement the constitution was held in abeyance.

The case was adjourned till today (Thursday) due to shortage of time.

There were a total of 16 respondents including the Railway Board, the then secretaries, chairmen Railways, serving chairman and secretary Railways, the Establishment Division, Senior Member Federal Bureau of Revenue, Secretary Railways Board, General Manager Services, Lt Gen (R) Javed Ashraf Qazi, former federal minister, Lt Gen (R) Saeed ul Zafar, Maj Gen (r) Hamid Hassan Butt and Khursheed Alam and others.

SC FORMS BODY TO CATEGORISE EOBI SCAM ISSUES

The Supreme Court on Wednesday constituted a committee of the parties’ counsel for categorization of the issues in EOBI scam with the direction to submit its report by Saturday.

A three-member bench headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing multi-billion rupees corruption scam in the Employees Old Age Benefit Institute (EOBI) for making investments in the private sector projects without approval of its Board of Trustees (BoT). Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had taken suo motu notice in June 2013.

Advocate Hafiz S A Rehman representing EOBI had Tuesday submitted a report before the apex court stating that the Nov 21 meeting of the Board of Trustees (BoT) had decided to return properties to the sellers.

The report says that BoT had decided to return the properties to the sellers on the same actual amount it paid while purchasing the lands as well as the mark-up determined from the date of release of the payments by the EOBI to the date of receipt of the same from the sellers. The sellers also have to pay the mark-up on the payments made to them by EOBI because they have utilized the money to their financial benefit whereas EOBI suffered an opportunity loss.

During the proceedings, the bench rejected the report, saying the EOBI wanted to return the properties but was silent on the evaluation of the land’s present price. Justice Saqib Nisar said the sellers’ stance was that they had paid the actual amount, therefore, why they pay interest on it.

The court inquired from the EOBI chairman had he evaluated the present price of the land sold to it? The chairman responded it was the point of view of the Board that it would be difficult to estimate price of the whole land.

Justice Saqib Nisar questioned how many persons were in the BoT of the EOBI. The chairman replied 16. The court said should they summon all the Board members as they did not want to evaluate the current price of the land but wanted to take back its actual amount.

The judge said it was the public money, and if it is proved that kickbacks were received then they would not spare the officials involved in it.

Justice Saqib said they couldn’t rely on media reports that fraud was committed in all the deals. The court observed thousands of persons pensions have been stopped due to this case, therefore, they have decided to hear it on daily basis and adjourned the hearing till next week.