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“irrefutable evidence” that Bahria Town had illegally acquired land

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In a statement issued on Wednesday after a meeting of its Karachi division, the federal anti-corruption body said there was “irrefutable evidence” that Bahria Town had illegally acquired land for its massive gated scheme in the city’s Malir district.

According to NAB’s findings, land officials all the way from the Malir Development Authority to the Sindh Building Control Authority and Board of Revenue had colluded with the powerful real estate developer to perpetrate the scam.

The Supreme Court on May 4 declared the procurement of land for three Bahria projects — including that in Karachi — null and void, and ordered NAB to complete its investigations and file references against the individuals involved within three months.

One would certainly hope that NAB, having sought the help of the Survey of Pakistan and the defence ministry to determine illegal transfer and swapping of land — a major aspect of the fraud — will be able to construct a case that will bring the guilty to justice.

Far too often in Pakistan, cases described as watertight by prosecuting authorities have been hobbled by missing pieces of evidence, weak chain of custody, witnesses that turn hostile, inadequate case preparation, etc when they come to court.

In corruption allegations involving Bahria Town Karachi, given the cast of enormously powerful and well-connected individuals who are stakeholders in a multibillion-rupee fortune, there will undoubtedly be pressure brought to bear on all those connected with the investigation.

Indeed, it is pertinent to ask why NAB has dragged its feet for so many years on investigating the blatantly suspicious modus operandi that allowed BTK to spread to its present colossal dimensions.

Why, despite multiple petitions against the developer and the compelling testimonies of the vicious harassment suffered by those directly affected by the project, has it taken a Supreme Court order to shake NAB out of its torpor? Be that as it may, the anti-corruption body once again has the opportunity to prove that it can, and will, expose this land scam in its entirety without fear or favour.

One may well argue that where a matter of public interest is concerned, this is a test case for DG NAB, retired Justice Javed Iqbal.

And those who have the interests of the public at heart will be watching the outcome very closely.

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