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Old Thursday, December 16, 2010
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Default The Express Tribune: Saving face: K-P reverses dubious land lease

Saving face: K-P reverses dubious land lease bu Mr. Rauf Klasra

ISLAMABAD: In a dramatic move, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti cancelled the allotment of 170 acres of land worth Rs5 billion on Wednesday, after The Express Tribune broke the news of the well-documented scam.

In a desperate bid to pre-empt any legal action from the Supreme Court of Pakistan against those top guns who were direct beneficiaries of the land lease, the chief executive of the province beat a hasty retreat.

The Canola Research Station of the Pakistan Oilseed Development Board (PODB) established on 400 kanals of government land in Mardan worth Rs1.6 billion was proposed to be allotted to chief executive officer PALBTIZ, Sarhad Chamber of Commerce, Peshawar.

Inside sources within the provincial government claimed the decision to cancel land allotment was taken after warnings by “sane elements” within the power corridors. If the allotment of 170 acres of land to a front man (Javed Iqbal of Rawalpindi) of an ANP leader was not cancelled, there was a strong possibility that Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry might take a suo motu notice of the scam, the provincial government was advised.

It was feared that the Supreme Court’s action might land none other than the chief executive of the province, Hoti, in big trouble because he had approved the illegal allotment of a palm olive research station’s 170 acres of developed land to one of his party loyalists at throwaway prices, breaking all rules of transparency.

The announcement to cancel questionable land allotment was made by the information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain during a televised interview with Express TV. He initially denied the story run by The Express Tribune, calling it a “pack of lies”. But, in the same breath, the information minister claimed that for the sake of “transparency”, the provincial government had decided to cancel allotment of land to an unknown individual and hold a public auction of the property to fetch more money.

However, the minister did not respond to the question as to why a public auction was not held in the past before the allotment was made. Despite persistent attempts, the minister did not disclose the identity of Javed Iabal who was initially allotted the land for a period of five years.

The Express Tribune had reported that chief minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti had quietly allotted public land worth Rs5 billion to a front man of his party leader in Mardan after forcibly taking the possession from the Pakistan Oilseed Development Board with the help of local police.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2010.
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