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BTK approached SC on the issue of extension of leasehold rights from GoS

ISLAMABAD: The Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd Karachi (BTLK) on Friday approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan to seek a directive for the Sindh government to extend leasehold rights to the developer since it was facing difficulties in transferring rights to its allottees.

In a three-page application submitted to the apex court through its counsel Barrister Ali Zafar, the developer stated that it had already paid Rs 57.4 billion of the total Rs 460 bn liability up to November 2019.

The application recalled how the BTLK’s offer of Rs460bn was accepted by the SC’s implementation bench on March 21, 2019 for the purchase of the land measuring 16,896 acres in the Malir Development Authority (MDA) with certain terms and conditions.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by former apex court judge Sheikh Azmat Saeed, had on March 21 last year approved the Rs460bn offer to implement the court’s May 4, 2018 judgement that declared the grant of land to the Malir Development Authority by the Sindh government, its exchange with the land of the private land developer, Bahria Town, and anything done under the provisions of Colonisation of Government Land Act 1912 by the Sindh government illegal and of no legal existence. The land had been granted for launching an incremental housing scheme, but the MDA exchanged it with Bahria Town to launch a scheme of its own, the judgement had observed.

The fresh application highlighted that the BTLK had already deposited a sum of Rs57.4bn to date with the Supreme Court, adding that the SC had through its March 21, 2019 order allowed the developer to allot and otherwise deal with 16,896 acres of the property in question as a builder or developer only.

The order had stated that on receipt of the entire payment, the leasehold rights in the property of 16,896 acres would be transferred on lease by the Sindh government/MDA to the BTLK for a period of 99 years or such other tenure in accordance with the applicable laws. The BTLK will then in accordance with the terms and conditions already agreed with the allottees of the plot transfer or cause to be transferred such rights in favour of the allottees.

The application stated that the BTLK project allottees were facing problems in getting finances and generating optimum value of their properties/lands in the Bahria Town Karachi Superhighway project due to non-availability of title or lease in their names.

Moreover, the applicant was also facing problems in selling its commercial land to the corporate entities locally and internationally for generating revenue to pay back the liability of Rs460bn due to non-availability of lease entitlements available to the applicant for onward sub-lease.

Therefore, the Supreme Court, the application said, should pass an order that the leasehold rights to the extent of the amount deposited be transferred on the lease by the Sindh government to the Bahria Town Karachi Superhighway project for a period of 99 years.

In return, it said, the applicant, in accordance with the terms and conditions already agreed with the allottees, would transfer leasehold rights in favour of the allottees.

Earlier, the federal government through Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan had proposed that the funds being deposited by the BTLK primarily belonged to the people of Sindh and it would be most appropriate that the entire amount being deposited and to be deposited by the property developer be spent exclusively for the benefit and welfare of the people of Sindh in the most transparent and equitable manner.

The federal government, however, suggested to the apex court that neither the federal government nor the Sindh government should have any say in the spending on the projects. Instead, the court in consultation with the chief justice may nominate chairman of a committee to oversee the fund utilisation, the federal government said, suggesting that the chairman should be a former SC judge, hailing from and residing in Sindh.

According to the Centre’s demand, the committee should also comprise the secretary of planning, development and special initiatives, two prominent citizens hailing from and residing in Sindh (one each to be nominated by the federal and the provincial governments), a prominent town planner to be nominated by the committee chairman, provincial chief secretary, besides an expert for its assistance from time to time.

About the money being deposited by the BTLK, the federal government wanted that it should be spent periodically on rural/urban projects of Sindh on a 50-50 basis. In Karachi, the AG demanded, the money be spent on infrastructure projects, while in rural areas it should be utilised on housing schemes for poor, hospitals, schools and sewerage system.

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