The Supreme Court on Tuesday again rejected an offer by Bahria Town to pay Rs 358 billion for the legalization of its housing society in Karachi and avoiding legal proceedings for the illegally acquired land. A three-judge special bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed heared a case pertaining to the implementation of apex court’s May 4, 2014, verdict against Bahria Town. In the May 4 judgement, the apex court had declared that the grant of land to the Malir Development Authority (MDA) and its subsequent swap with land owned by Bahria Town was illegal and void. It had also directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to continue its probe into the business practices employed by the developer. During the hearing on Tuesday, while terming the housing society’s settlement offer to regularise the land it is currently in possession of ‘unsatisfactory’, the bench asked Bahria Town to reconsider. “In 2014, the court had set Rs 225 billion as the amount to be paid in order to legalise 7,000 acres of land. If one marks that up by 40 per cent [to account for inflation, other factors], the number comes up to Rs 315 billion,” Justice Saeed noted. “My client is ready to pay Rs 315 billion in return for the legalisation of [all] 16,896 acres of land [that are disputed]. They cannot pay more,” defence counsel Ali Zafar said in response. But Justice Saeed dismissed the offer as ludicrous. “Rs 315 billion is the price [Bahria Town should pay] for just 7,068 acres of land,” he noted, comparing Bahria Town’s settlement offer for all 16,896 acres of land to the amount the Supreme Court had fined it (Rs 225 billion) for possessing 7,000 acres in 2014. “We’re not haggling over tomatoes here,” he fumed. To this, the lawyer said his client was in a fix and was simply trying to find a way out of the matter. The defendant’s lawyer then made a final offer of Rs 358 billion. However, the bench said it will hear the federal and Sindh governments as well as NAB on the matter before ruling on it in the next hearing. During the proceedings, the court also expressed displeasure on the difference in land allocation maps presented to it by the Surveyor General of Pakistan (SGP), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Bahria Town. The SGP was ordered to submit a report on the matter within two weeks. The SGP told the court that Bahria Town is being untruthful about the matter of government land being used in its housing societies. “Bahria Town’s authorised dealer – Prism – is selling land in Karachi which is outside of the housing society’s demarcation,” the SGP said. Upon hearing this revelation, the court summoned the owner of Prism to the court on the next hearing. The deputy commissioner for Malir was also directed to regain control of all government land within two weeks and submit a report on the matter. Addressing the deputy commissioner, Justice Saeed said, “This land was yours, you should have taken care of it. If you cannot protect government land, you should be ready to face NAB.” Published in Daily Times, January 23rd 2019.