CDA out to make top rulers’ agri land a goldmineTuesday, June 14, 2011
ISLAMABAD: Silently, but controversially, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has approved fundamental changes in the zoning regulations of its Zone III, defined as a protected Margalla Hills National Park area, which once implemented would instantly multiply the fortunes of President Asif Ali Zardari, who along with his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, owns 2,400 kanals of land in the area. This change in the zoning regulations has allowed the selected area of Zone III to be used for commercial purposes that include farm housing, golf and country club, a five-star hotel, medium rise apartments, wedding lawns and public buildings, etc. To the good luck of President Zardari, his agriculture land that was purchased through his alleged frontman in the mid 90s will become commercial land as soon as the new regulations are approved by the federal cabinet. This change would instantly raise the price of the selected land manifold.
When contacted, CDA Chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, however, insisted the particular area of Zone III, whose zoning regulations have already been changed by the authority’s board but yet to be approved by the cabinet, does not fall in the Margalla Hills National Park area. “This area was outside the park,” the CDA chairman added. He said it was the cabinet that had referred the case to the CDA and had sought the amendment to the zoning regulation for an organised construction activity there. However, sources said Faisal Butt, who is acting as the covert boss of the CDA and is a close friend of President Zardari, is the one who has got this magical work done. Till recently, a federal minister, who is closely associated with both the president and Faisal Butt, too, is said to have purchased more than 100 kanals of land in his daughter’s name to multiply his wealth as soon as the cabinet approves and announces the change in the CDA zoning. Faisal Butt is interestingly the same person who apparently bought 2,400 kanals of land from President Zardari’s alleged frontman Nasir Khan and then through a consent-degree transferred it in early 2009 in the name of a private company owned by President Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto. It was The News that had broken the story in 2009.
The CDA chairman said he does not know whether President Zardari’s land is located in the same area. He, however, explained that in 2008 the Supreme Court, under the then chief justice Dogar, had given an order in the case of Zone IV whereby the character of the zone was also changed. He said since the construction was going on in the Zone IV area, therefore, it was decided to regulate the construction activity and save to possible extent the green character of the zone. Documents reveal the CDA, in its 23rd board meeting dated 21st of December 2010, approved certain parameters of land uses of Sub Zone A of Zone III that include the provision of farm housing for which minimum size of scheme would be 1,500 kanals and minimum plot size would be of four kanals, and an apartment scheme of 100 kanals where commercial, public and multi-storey buildings could be constructed. The Sub Zone A is identified by the CDA documents as the area between Khayaban-e-Margalla and foothills. The documents propose the construction of a golf and country club, a five-star hotel, country housing/farm housing, wedding laws, solar energy parks, nurseries, open sports fields and public buildings. The CDA documents also recommended that the cabinet give permission to construct individual houses in and around existing settlement of village Shah Allah Ditta (within 1 km of the existing settlement). According to a source, this area covers over 100 kanal land recently purchased by a key presidential confidante, who was a federal minister till recently.
The CDA chairman, however, insisted the area approved by the CDA board is part of Zone III, not of Margalla National Park. The CDA Zoning Regulation 2005 defines the whole Zone III as: “Margalla Hills National Park as notified under section 21 of the Islamabad Wild Life (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Ordinance 1979 and other protected ranges, forest areas and un-acquired land falling between Margalla Hills and the north of Murree Road shall constitute this zone”. The CDA regulations said in this zone, no change in land use will be permissible except preservation, forestation and recreation. These regulations add no sale/purchase of land, which entails change in some of the existing rural settlements, is allowed. They add no residential scheme can be floated in the zone. It should be recalled here that The News on November 3, 2009 had broken the story that a private company owned by President Zardari and his son Bilawal purchased 2,460 kanals (307 acres) of prime land in Islamabad in March 2009, valued at CDA price of over Rs2 billion, for a mere Rs62 million, proving after a long wait that a 1997 NAB reference against Zardari for the same deal was justified, but had to be dropped then for lack of some missing links.
The deal, which Zardari was accused of in 1997, was thus completed this March, 15 years later, after a complex process of legal cases, suits and counter-suits, between a person once declared by the then government as a front man of Zardari, another person believed to be closely associated with the president and a private company that is jointly owned by the president, his son and a few others. Documents and legal papers, including the sale deed and court judgments given by the PCO-led Islamabad High Court, available with The News, had proved that a Karachi-based private company, Park Lane Estates (Pvt) Ltd, purchased almost 2,500 kanals of land near Sangjani from Faisal Sakhi Butt, who himself purchased the land from a Pakistani-American living in Houston, US, named Muhammad Nasir Khan, for merely Rs62 million. Nasir Khan was the original purchaser of this land in 1994 and was declared to be the frontman of Zardari in the Ehtesab Bureau reference filed against him in 1997.Source: [The News]