SC orders FIA to probe irregularities in ETPB properties sale

    The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to conduct an inquiry on the Auditor General of Pakistan’s (AGP) report about alleged irregularities of over Rs77 billion in the sale of 7,143 urban properties in different parts of the country owned by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB).

    A two-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed was hearing a petition filed by Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) patron Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani complaining that the apex court’s directives about protection of properties belonging to minority communities were not being implemented. The court ordered the FIA to conduct the inquiry in a month.

    The directive was issued when the apex court was told that the AGP had discovered the irregularities though the ETPB did not extend complete assistance and shared only half of the information to the auditors.

    Dr Shoaib Suddle, the head of the one-man commission on minorities’ rights, had highlighted the audit report of the AGP.

    The court ordered the ETPB to extend complete cooperation to the AGP by providing all relevant documents and assistance to it.

    The AGP was directed to commence the audit of the ETPB accounts afresh and complete the procedure within two months.

    The court also asked the ETPB to explain how the properties of the board could be sold out when it was told that three properties had been sold to the Defence Housing Authority, Lahore, Multan Development Authority and a private citizen, Talib Hussain. The court also issued notices to the buyers of the properties.

    Dr Vankwani informed the court that there were 1,809 temples or shrines in the country of which 588 were Gurdwaras and 1,221 Hindu Mandirs and most of them were non-functional. All these properties stretched on 109,369 acres with approximate worth of Rs219bn of which 75,055 acres have been leased out to different parties.

    The Sindh inspector general informed the court that an FIR had been registered over the complaint of death threats issued to Dr Vankwani.

    On Monday, Dr Vankwani through an application had apprised the court of the threats, stating that a week ago some men came to Crystal Apartments in Bath Island, Karachi, in two Hilux double cabins, beat his guard and issued threats to him. This incident was captured on a CCTV camera, the application said. The court, however, disposed of the matter.

    Advocate Ikram Chaudhry, representing the ETPB, informed the bench that a report had been filed in the court highlighting that the board owned 48,000 properties in total throughout the country.

    The court also decided to take up after a month the matter regarding payment for construction and restoration of Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Dayal Ji Maharaj (Teri Temple) in Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

    Through an application, Dr Vankwani had said that despite directives for the ETPB to pay Rs38 million to the Pakistan Hindu Council which it had spent on construction and restoration of the Samadhi, the board had not paid the amount.

    The application stated that the council had spent its own money on the construction and restoration of the temple after failure of the ETPB to undertake the construction and restoration of the temple despite earlier directives by the Supreme Court.

    The total cost for restoration of the temple was Rs40m, but a grant of Rs2m was given by the KP government.

    In disregard of the court directive, the ETPB had not paid the balance amount of Rs38m despite the passage of more than eight months from the date of the order, the application alleged.

    It requested the court to order the ETPB for payment of the amount and initiate contempt proceedings against the board.

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