The bizarre story of the Saudi cook began when Sharif (name changed) bought a piece of land in the Lahore Defence Housing Authority, managed and run by Army Officers, falling prey to the dubious sale of plots, believing that since Pakistan Army was managing it, he would not be swindled. When on a brief vacation to Lahore, Sharif wanted to have a look at the piece of land he had supposedly paid for, the Pakistan Army Brigadier and his juniors in the DHA, gave him the usual frustrating run around. He was never shown his land.
Sharif returned to his job with the Prince but at an opportune moment informed his royal employer of what had happened. The Prince straightway dialed General Pervez Musharraf.
The General, who would not listen to any one else except, of course, some body from Washington, asked his Vice Chief to order an inquiry as the main culprit was Musharraf’s own recently-shifted Corps Commander in Lahore, Lt. General Zarrar Azim.
Since the new Corps Commander wanted the facts, it turned out that the entire hierarchy of DHA, headed by a Brigadier was deep in collusion with some real estate agencies and were minting billions in fraudulent sales to people like Sharif.
The news of the DHA shake-up was broken by Lahore’s Daily “The News” on February 5, 2005. In a report from Lahore it said the military authorities had removed the top management of DHA on alleged corruption in the planned Phases 6-10 of the Lahore Cantonment Cooperative Housing Society (LCCHS). But the newspaper said DHA Administrator Brigadier Abdul Jalil Khan, Director Land, Lt. Col Ikram, Director Transfers Lt. Col Feroz Bhatti and Deputy Director Land Major Razaq had only been shifted and “placed at the disposal of the Station Headquarters.” Obviously because General Zarrar Azim, now posted in the GHQ, protected them.
The military authorities have constituted an enquiry committee, headed by Commandant Signals Brigade of the 4 Corps Brigadier Khalilullah Butt. The enquiry is underway against military officials and some high-profile realtors.” “The realtors include Yousuf Chauhan of the Chauhan Estate, Haji Allah Ditta of Defense Estate Mr Sahir of Sahir Estate. Apart from these, the owners of Panjnad Estate are also being interrogated,” the newspaper reported.
In its own guarded way, since writing negatively about top Army officers is a risky business in Pakistan, The News said: “The trail of the enquiry is expected to lead the investigators to a couple of high-ranking serving military officials as well. It is important to note this enquiry has been initiated on the orders of Vice Chief of the Army Staff (VCOAS), General Ahsan Saleem Hayat. Commander 4-Corps (Lahore), Lt-Gen Shahid Aziz, has played an important role.”
The Daily Times reported that property dealers had acquired several acres of land belonging to the government with fake names, in connivance with land revenue officials, and thereafter gave it to the DHA authorities. “The dealers acquired agricultural land (now DHA phases 5 to 10) and handed that to the DHA free of cost on the agreement that 25 per cent would be returned to them after their inclusion in the society. Due to stark differences in the prices of agricultural and DHA property, this translated into a very lucrative profit for investors.”
The investigations have led to the blacklisting of four major real estate agents in DHA: Chauhan Estate, Defence Estate, Property Talk and Al-Rehman Associate. Their offices were sealed and their records were confiscated. DHA security personnel have been posted outside the offices to ensure no one goes in. This was another way of helping the collaborators otherwise why would the Army not meet legal requirements to prosecute criminals who had swindled billions. Newspapers reported that DHA had allowed the offices to be reopened, but would not deal with them directly or indirectly.
The most disturbing aspect of the whole scandal, feared by some real estate experts, is that in their scramble to make big money, Army Officers working in the DHA may have sold large tracts of lands to Indian buyers who were investing in DHA lands through their Dubai front offices. According to one source one company had been inquiring about buying 500 acres of land near the Pak-India border. Under the mess that was going it, it may have done so already.