Satellite Picture of Bahria Town in Rawalpindi, taken from its
Scams in the Name of the Sacred Soldiers
M Afzal Khan
August 24: Land scams that are proliferating across the country,
specially in the name of our Armed Forces, have come into sharp
focus, sadly because of murder of two guards of a high profile
housing society in the federal capital.
it was the National Assembly last night and next morning the Senate,
where members from both sides of the isle voiced their outrage
over the blatant manner in which this housing society used the
name of Pakistan Navy to generate massive public interest and
money in its highly publicized schemes.
Lawmakers of the area said the developer purchased the land from
poor villagers around Islamabad cheaply and sold plots at hugely
inflated price. The violence reported in the press was attributed
to allegation by some of these sellers that they have been cheated.
In the end two innocent guards were caught in the fray and killed.
The developer has shown ingenuity and innovation both in designs
and marketing. These have made his various offerings one of the
most attractive in the country, after the defence housing schemes.
Few, perhaps, would grudge that, had it all been a fair and clean
affair. But many lawmakers pointed accusing fingers at top political,
civil and military figures whose patronage has gone along with
Former law minister Sen. Dr. Khalid Ranjha pointed out that it
was a criminal offence to use for any private commercial venture,
the name of an official organization, more so an arm of the military.
“Bahria Town“ was originally purported to be a project
of the Pakistan Navy. But a former navy chief allegedly allowed
the present developer for unknown reasons and consideration.
On a number of occasions the developer has been running into trouble
with the top government functionaries, including the NAB. He was
even jailed. But in the end he escaped unscathed and expanded
his business to incredible proportions. In private sector, he
is, perhaps, the top-most real estate tycoon in the country.
The lawmakers particularly took note of the latest offer in what
was called Bahria Town-Phase 9. The publicity preceding the offering
had set about a week for the people to file prescribed forms.
The forms were available in some selected banks. But on the first
day it was announced that within first six hours, 40,000 forms
were distributed by banks to the applicants exhausting all supplies.
Many bank branches witnessed virtual riots and damage to buildings
caused by dejected prospective buyers who were unable to get any
To top it all, the developer announced that all the 40,000 applicants
would be given plots if they deposited the down payment within
the due date. Apparently, it was inconceivable that the developer
actually owned 40,000 plots. The two announcements sent the market
in a tail spin. The frenzy that ensued led to black market sale
and resale of forms at exorbitant prices ranging from Rs15,000
The lawmakers were intrigued by the way the forms were distributed.
Influential people were given scores of these forms before sending
them to the banks. This writer overheard two people in an escalator
talking about the forms two days after the event. “Sir,
you had promised to get me some forms,” one gentleman said.
“Don’t you worry. An FIA director has been given 20
and has promised to share five with me.”
Many lawmakers were perturbed that the real estate craze has overtaken
the society and widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots
to a vulgar level. You go to any office – private, public,
civil, military - the most favorite topic is the housing schemes.
prices in all major cities, including Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi
have skyrocketed. While the lucky ones with money and connections
have made windfall profits in buying and selling, the less fortunate
have nothing but to curse their luck. For most of the middle and
lower class strata of the society, the price of land to build
houses has gone out of their reach.
reasonably employed and paid person cannot even think of buying
a servant quarter sized plot of land in Islamabad for his entire
lifelong savings. Building a house has become a fantasy. In other
major cities, things are no different.
The most coveted societies, of course, are the defence housing
societies in major cities. The President last week felt peeved
by the fact that “pseudo intellectuals” feel jealous
about these societies. According to him these are best developed
and managed. If some army officer sells a plot for hundred times
the cost at which he was allotted, so argued the President, why
should people grudge or feel jealous about it.
President says only the retired military officers are looking
after these societies which also provide employment and generate
development activity. He conveniently ignores the fact of the
involvement of officer corps in allotment, sale and resale of
plots. Untold stories about higher echelons overseeing these schemes
have tainted the image of the institution.
Moreover the defence housing societies have become an obscene
feature of our elite culture that is far removed from the rest
of the populace. It generates, not just the” jealousy”
which the President has referred to, but irrepressible rage and
revulsion among the less privileged.
are reports of a new town being planned in Bedian between Lahore
and Wagah, where only eight-acre plots for mansions and estates
would be developed.
For the country, investment in real estate from within and abroad,
has replaced capital formation for productive use in the economy.
Pakistan’s economy has more or less become a real estate
economy. Huge capital has been invested in this unproductive sector.
Little is thus available for investment in genuine economic activity.
The land grab mafia has sprouted in every town and city, boosting
all sorts of crimes and corruption.
President Musharraf set a noble example in 1999 when he declared
his assets after taking over. Eye brows were, however, raised,
why he had to have seven or eight plots, including commercial
plots, in different defence housing societies across the country.
Wali Khan was intrigued by the revelation that the President owns
a plot in Gwadar as well. "Is he going to build a house and
live there," he had asked. Recently when he purchased a five-acre
farm in Islamabad which is worth crores, it was stated that he
sold one of his commercial plots in Lahore to pay for that.
is argued that the President had done nothing illegal as the rules
permit an army officer to get more than one plot. The point is,
how far is this ethically correct. If he surrenders his other
plots and makes the rule that only one plot can be allotted to
any officer in the country for building a house, the President
would radically change the entire environment of “jealousy”.
Instead, he would create tremendous goodwill for himself and the
this context an encounter with another military dictator is instructive.
When in 1976, Gen. Zia was named COAS, this writer and another
dear friend who also knew Zia since he was Lt. Colonel, invited
him to a cup of tea at the Multan Press Club. This friend was
building a house but had not been able to complete it.
asked him:” Masood Sahib, have you been able to build your
house?” Zia was told that it is as yet not even half complete.
“Masood Sahib, I am sure you will be able to build it now
that you have started it. Look at me. I am at the fag end of my
career, and I cannot even think of building a house.”
many generals, nay even captains and majors of today can repeat