Land mafia threatens $40 million overseas investment project in Lahore

LONDON: A housing society project worth $40 million in Lahore exclusively built for overseas Pakistanis faces extreme difficulties at the hands of an organized land mafia despite Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s personal

English: Location of Lahore, in Punjab.

English: Location of Lahore, in Punjab. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

involvement to help the investors through the Chief Minister’s Advisory Committee for Overseas Pakistanis.

A group of British Pakistanis businessmen bought barren 208K-13M land, situated at 18 Kilometre Raiwind Road, Lahore. When the investors bought the land, an 8K-18M plot adjacent to the back of the real estate project was un-claimed till the creation of forged documents by the land mafia.

Soon after the purchase, a local patwari approached the investors and wanted to sell the 8K-18M adjacent plot on cheap rate but on refusal by investors, threats were hurled at life and access claim to the plot through the housing project, although boundary walls had already been erected as per approved planning permission.

Within days, the businessmen told The News here, a well-known transporter and politician visited the project with around 20 armed men and produced fake papers.

On 27th January, 2011 a group of 50 armed goons, broke down the boundary walls adjacent to the plot and installed a group of armed men inside the housing project. When the victims approached Shahbaz Sharif, he ordered the police and the revenue department to probe in the matter.

In the revenue department the investigation, conducted by Additional Collector Nadir Chattha, found that the registry papers were tampered with and there existed no record of the 8K-18M plot belonging to Ameer Din from whom the occupier claimed to have purchased the contentious property.

After these findings, an FIR was lodged against Patwari Shafaqat Bhatti, Ameer Din, and Chaudhary Irfan by the revenue department on the ground that they fiddled with the land papers. The patwari Shafaqat Bhatti was suspended for tampering with the revenue record.

On 9 July 2011, the first FIR was registered against the land mafia in Raiwind City Police station but only three days later, the mafia struck again and tried to occupy the plot. The CCTV footage, seen by this reporter, shows that 13 armed men took over the housing project, fired in air, struck down boundary walls, attacked security men on duty and issued threats to the owners that they should leave the country.

Again, a case was registered vide FIR number 558/11 against the occupants but on the night of 26th of October 2011, again 20 people came through the main gate while displaying weapons. The stay order of 20 July 2011 stated that gates and the road only belonged to the housing society.

A commission set up by the Civil Judge Farhan Nabi ordered in October 2011 found that the contentious land was outside of the project boundaries. But the ordeal of the businessmen from London didn’t end here. On 21st February 2012, a group of 13 people raided the estate and kidnapped security guard Muhammad Arshad. The police arrested 10 people from the spot and charged them with Section 365, a non-bailable offence. The housing society proprietors allege that the land mafia manipulated the re-investigation and got struck off 365 from the FIR # 124/12.

They allege that the DSP even harassed the complainant by taking the land mafia group to the housing society which was reported to IG Punjab Haji Habib Rehman.

In the meanwhile, the inquiry by the revenue department established that the actual owner of the contentious plot was Syed Hamid Mian whose inheritors agreed to sell the 8K-18M adjacent plot to the British investors.

The representative of this overseas project told The News: “We started this project after Shahbaz Sharif offered incentives to overseas Pakistanis. This is a model project reserved for the overseas Pakistanis but it became our nightmare as we were targeted by criminals. The matter is settling on merit in our favour but we are still scared for our lives as we are receiving death threats in our own home. The way we were treated by criminals will discourage anyone thinking about investing in Pakistan.” He said that if the problems of the investor continued, then overseas Pakistanis, who are the backbone of overseas reservoirs, will not think of even visiting Pakistan, let alone investing. He called on the government of Pakistan, especially Punjab government, to help people like him who are in danger at the hands of land mafia.

Police officer Nazar Abbas confirmed to The News that he had “cancelled” the Section 365 FIR. “In my mind, it was not a serious case and should not have been registered as such. Now the investigation is with a senior officer and he’s looking into it. It’s easy to make allegations; we shall wait for the outcome of the new probe.”