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CDA doesn’t know who it leased prime land to a decade ago

CDA doesn’t know who it leased prime land to a decade ago

ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA), 10 years ago, had leased out about 40 kanals of prime commercial land worth billions of rupees to a ‘phony’ company which has since gone into litigation and still remains ‘unknown’ to the city managers.

A cursory examination of the relevant record shows that CDA entered into business with the firm, Falcon Entertainment INC, via an amended agreement in 2010, signed by an official of the civic authority with an ‘unnamed’ functionary of the firm.

The only recognisable name on the agreement is that of the witness.

An ‘unknown’ functionary of the company had signed the agreement for 40 kanals near Rawal Lake of which there is no original record

The land in the Rawal Lake Amusement Park was given away without an advertisement or following the public procurement rules.

The disclosure came to the fore when the Supreme Court recently sought a detailed report of the lease agreements that the CDA has made with several commercial parties for running the various recreational facilities at the Lake View Park.

Sources in the civic authority say the company belongs to one of the leaders of a mainstream political party and that CDA officers know who is behind the company but are not disclosing his name. They said the politician used to control CDA affairs during the previous government.

“This is a mysterious case. In 2015, we had cancelled the lease agreement with the company but there was no trace of the lease owner. No one contacted the CDA to submit the outstanding dues and complete other formalities. But some people from the company obtained a stay order from the local court, which is still intact,” said CDA spokesperson Malik Saleem.

He said that in the latest report that the CDA submitted in the SC a few days ago, the status of the company has been declared benami or unnamed.

A benami company is one whose owner’s identity has not been disclosed.

“There are several issues in the lease agreement, the ownership of the company is not known as well. Once the stay order is vacated, we can take back possession of the land,” said Director Environment Irfan Niazi.

He said that as per his record, there is no trace of the original file and no noting of the case.

“The other day, I went to the local court myself and pleaded before the judge to vacate the stay order as the matter is in SC. The case will be taken up again on Monday,” he said.

Asked how CDA cannot identify the owner if the case is in court, he said it is difficult for anyone to check out who is behind a case in civil cases.

According to CDA documents, the company was given the lease in 2007 and the agreement details are missing.

The CDA has an amended lease from 2010 but there is no mention of the names of the owners of the company.

The documents submitted in SC say that the CDA allotted seven sites in Lake View in 2007 without following the due process as an open competition was not held.

The other firms which were awarded leases are Development Aid Carnival Area owned by Yasir Hameed which was given 3.8 acres for 15 years, Trendy Amusement (BMX) Cycling owned by Mohammad Yousaf which was given 1.24 acres for 15 years and Entertainment City with an ‘unknown’ owner who was given land but the lease for which was later cancelled.

ESP Initiative owned by Mohammad Malik was given 25 acres for 15 years and Fun and Joy owned by Aizaz Malik was given 10 acres for 30 years.

Another benami company, Akbar Associates, was also leased land but the agreement was cancelled in the initial years of the deal.

In the same year, CDA gad allotted over 35 acres to seven other companies in Lake View Park but documents show that the due process was adopted in these leases.

In both cases, legal and illegal leases, the CDA fixed very nominal charges of Rs120,000 per acre per annum meaning those who were leased the land only had to pay Rs10,000 per month for each acre of prime land in the federal capital.

The companies given the leases were also supposed to share 5pc of their profits with the CDA but sources say the civic agency has received little or no profit as most companies are showing losses in their businesses.

CDA officials said that on SC direction, CDA Chairman Usman Akhtar Bajwa and Member Planning Asad Mehboob Kayani on Friday visited Lake View to get on-ground information as well.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2018

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