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Lease of land for Grand Hyatt cancelled, IHC informed

Lease of land for Grand Hyatt cancelled, IHC informed

ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has finally terminated the ‘controversial’ lease of a piece of land for the under-construction Grand Hyatt and high-rise apartments.

After the cancellation of the lease, billions of rupees invested by the citizens in the purchase of apartments in the skyscraper are at stake as they cannot get the possession of their apartments unless the court of law sets aside the CDA decision.

According to sources, the allottees of the apartments included a former chief justice of Pakistan, federal ministers, serving and retired army officers and other influential figures.

The decision to cancel the lease may be a part of CDA’s ongoing campaign against violators of its building by-laws as last week the civic agency sealed a multi-storey shopping complex, Safa Gold Mall.

Critics, however, said the CDA initially allowed the violators to invest public money in their buildings and after about a decade took such punitive actions against the builders. But those who were responsible for checking the illegal constructions are spared.

The CDA legal counsel, Kashif Ali Malik, told Dawn that after the cancellation of the lease, the BNP (private) Ltd was no longer the lawful owner of the land and cannot transfer the possession of the apartments to any third party.

Advocate Malik on Monday informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the CDA Board cancelled the 99-year-lease of the land to the BNP, the owner of the project. The court will resume hearing of a petition filed by the BNP against the sealing of the under-construction building on Wednesday.

On March 9, 2005, the CDA auctioned the 13.5-acre plot on the Constitution Avenue to the BNP Group for Rs4.88 billion. The CDA Board, however, handed over the possession of the plot to the buyer the same year after receiving only Rs800 million.

The BNP has so far paid to the CDA Rs1.02 billion while the remaining Rs3.85 billion are recoverable in installments until 2026.

Initially, the building was allowed to be 718 feet tall but its height was reduced to 300 feet after objections raised by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

On July 20, the CDA submitted a report to the court on the leasing of the plot to the BNP. According to the report, the civic authority initially wanted to lease out the land for 33 years for the construction of a six-storey building.

The CDA prequalified nine firms but cancelled the bidding process and issued another advertisement in which the height limit was relaxed and the lease period increased from 33 to 99 years.

The report said the CDA offered the plot to the BNP, which consisted of Bismillah Textile, Niagara Mills, Paragon City and Dubai-based Belhasa International Company.

However, it signed the lease agreement with another company called Elite Fashion, a subsidiary of Bismillah Textile, which was renamed as BNP (Private) Limited on May 2, 2005.

In 2012, the then chairman of the CDA, Syed Tahir Shahbaz, rescheduled the payment plan and allowed the BNP to pay the remaining amount till 2026.

The building plan was valid from 2008 to 2013 after which it had to be revalidated.

The BNP sold apartments in the building without obtaining a completion certificate, the report claimed. The CDA alleged that the BNP was allowed to construct 124 service apartments but it built over 240 and sold them to private parties.

It may be mentioned that the CDA sealed the under-construction skyscraper in June after the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on May 25 hinted that it would register a criminal case against at least two former heads of the civic agency and members of the CDA Board for giving undue favour to the BNP.

On the directions of the PAC, the CDA referred the matter related to the rescheduling and slow recovery of the amount to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which are investigating it.

When contacted, legal expert Mohammad Shuaib Shaheen told Dawn the builders may challenge the CDA order in the court. The buyers may also file a legal suit against the BNP for the recovery of their amount.

He said in case the BNP fails to pay back the amount to the allottees, the CDA can auction the building structure and compensate them.

When contacted, the chief executive officer of the BNP, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, said he cannot comment as the matter was still sub judice.

He, however, claimed that since he never did anything against the law and his deal with the CDA was in accordance with the bid, he would contest the CDA’s decision at every forum.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2016

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