LAHORE   -  The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday set aside the lease contract between Pakistan Railways and Messrs Mainland Husnain Pakistan relating to Royal Palm Golf & Country Club and directed the PR to assume the club’s control.

A bench consisting of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan announced the verdict at the Supreme Court Lahore Registry. The court had reserved the judgment in April after hearing arguments of all the parties on a petition filed against the contract relating to the club.

The apex court also directed PR management to issue new tenders for the lease of the club and also include international bidders in the list. The PR was given three months to finish the entire bidding process.

The Royal Palm club dispute revolved around the lease of 141 acres of railways land to Messrs Mainland Husnain Pakistan by the Pakistan Railways, allegedly in a non-transparent way and in violation of settled principles.

The controversy had surfaced in a 2011 joint petition filed by former minister of state for Railways Ishaq Khan Khakwani and Dr Mobashir Hassan, one of the PPP’s founding members.

A NAB reference is also pending before an Islamabad accountability court against illegal lease of the railway's prime land to the said company.

On April 2, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed the corruption reference for illegal award of the lease in the Islamabad Accountability Court against Lt-Gen (r) Javed Ashraf Qazi, who served as ISI chief, as PR chairman and as federal minister for communications and railways; and Lt-Gen Saeeduz Zaman, a former secretary and chairman of the Railways Board.

The other accused nominated in the reference are: Maj-Gen (r) Hamid Hassan Butt, Brig (r) Akhtar Ali Baig, Iqbal Samad Khan, Khurshid Ahmed Khan, Abdul Ghaffar, Ramzan Sheikh, Pervaiz Qureshi, sponsors of Royal Palm Golf Club and five other officers of railways.

As per the NAB findings, the PR management in 2001 offered the  lease of land for 33 years for which many companies submitted bids. Meanwhile, the lease period was illegally increased from 33 years to 49 years.

In addition, the land offered for the club was also illegally enhanced from 103 acres to 141 acres. And for the purpose, railway officers' colony was also demolished.

The accountability watchdog says that PR land was leased out in an illegal non-transparent way so as to benefit the leaseholder and Mainland Hasnain Pakistan Ltd, according to the NAB investigation.

In December 2018, the Supreme Court had dissolved the club’s administrative board and ordered to immediately seize all the record.

On December 27, former Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, while heading a three-member bench at the Lahore registry, took the club under judicial custody, and directed an audit firm namely Ferguson to confiscate its record.

The Supreme Court, after a daylong hearing on the controversy on April 12 this year, reserved its judgment in the case which has now been announced.