Malik Riaz runs a virtual state within a state. And this has been so for quite a while--from General Musharaf’s time in government, actually.
Here is a different perspective on the political happenings. Both Musharraf and Malik needed each other. Musharraf had to keep the military brass happy about his illegitimate rule. Malik was handy in providing the ‘goodies’ required to tie up the wagging tongues. Basically, lots of wealth in the shape of plots, favours, perks but mostly crude money. In return, Malik got facilitation and access to every level of power. A whole coterie of wheeler-dealers flourished in the process. The stakes, involving trillions of rupees, were so high that the economic interests of the civil-military coterie over-grew Musharraf. He became expendable for the larger vested interests. Enter Asif Zardari.
It was a match made in heaven. Few give credit to Malik Riaz who helped tailor the new political arrangement. He was instrumental in bringing the same coterie together in the same boat. It’s the same old script with the same old setting, characters and side-kicks that one sees at the Presidency. Only the protagonist, Asif Zardari, has been changed.
We give credit to the judiciary, media and the public for seeing the democracy survive for the last five years. The role of Malik Riaz gets ignored. Call it the vested interests of the coterie, the elite panoply, the mafia or simply the biggest real estate scam of the last 66 years—this may be the most crucial factor that kept the system going. This may seem far-fetched but is not irrelevant if one takes into account the money involved in the land-grabbing, tax evasion or sheer bribery in these housing schemes. For God’s sake, it’s bigger than Pakistan’s budget.
Even now the most important player in politics and the up-coming elections is Malik Riaz. Yet this key link in the political chain is missing from our discourse. He pervades all over but his role is not discussed as much as it merits. One gets to hear about him only in whispers, innuendo.
Not a single comprehensive profile exists of a person who happens to be one of the richest and the most powerful persons in the country. Political pundits keep harping on about wrong themes day-in and day-out. TV anchors ensure the viewers follow the distractions or, as the Punjabi proverb goes, the rear light of a moving truck (truck di batti). Come on fellows, it is akin to missing the elephant in the room.
The mansion in Lahore, allegedly made for the Man on the Hill, shows how much he is investing in the next government. But then this just may be peanuts in comparison to his stakes in retaining the official patronage. Now that he has ‘belled’ the Supreme Court, thanks to Chaudhary Arsalan, he reigns ‘Supreme.’
As of now, he continues to run the State, especially in the beautiful environs of the Margalla Hills. The Supreme Court ordered an inquiry against Malik Riaz in case of gross human rights violations. He was accused of fabricating evidence to involve some locals in fake cases and coerced them to
give up their land with the help of the local police and the revenue administration. Here is the official report of Islamabad’s Sessions Judge, Mazhar Hussain Minhas: “Islamabad Police, particularly from the Sihala Police Station, was completely under the influence and control of Malik Riaz. SHO Sihala Idrees Rathore and Sub-inspector, Ahmed Kamal acted as his personal servants and instead of performing their lawful duties played with the liberties of innocent people by involving them in false and baseless cases. In certain incidents, even police officials accompanied Bahria’s security staff for the illegal possession of land.”
Judge Minhas goes on to report that like the Police, the Revenue Department “is completely under the thumb of Malik Riaz. Revenue officers of Malik’s choice are posted in Bahria Town housing schemes. The officials follow his dictates blindly. Tehsildar Imtiaz Pervez Janjua admits that he is posted in Islamabad since May, 1998. Revenue Officials of Rawalpindi/Islamabad are committing illegalities with impunity and do not pay any heed even to the directions of the Courts. The officials facilitate him in land-grabbing and tax evasion”.
It goes without saying that the Capital Developmenmt Authority (CDA) remains Malik’s baby. He can occupy the CDA land with impunity. A CDA council recently told the Islamabad High Court that Bahira Town occupied over 1200
kanals of the CDA land, valued at Rs 1.25 billion, to build a road to its newly launched ‘Bahria Enclave.’ He makes the CDA launch schemes next to his own to accelerate the public rush and then sells his plots at half their prices. The Commission formed by the Federal Tax Ombudsman mentions Bahria’s scheme, Margallah Enclave, which it says “was a project apparently to swindle the hard-earned money of the general public. The Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan, on the basis of an inquiry into the scam, had to penalize the directors of Bahria Town with maximum penalty.
Interestingly, his leverage in Punjab is no less. The Commission mentions that Punjab Forest Department has been the primary victim of Malik Riaz’s land grabbing. In the revenue estates of Lohi Bhir, Takh Pari and Murree over 11,000 kanals, valuing over Rs 6 billion, has been allegedly grabbed by Bahria Town.
The Commission concludes: “What seems apparent is that the critical State institutions have been fatally compromised, resulting in virtually non-existent writ of the law. Non-cooperative public officials and the hapless litigants/witnesses get routinely subjected to intimidation and blackmail. Fraud, deceit and the land-grabbing, causing loss worth billions of rupees to the State and private lands, seem the order of the day.”
Bahria continues to illegally collect advance money without any development and construction.
The Central Board of Revenue (CBR) seems to have been handed over to Malik Riaz. It is largely because of him that seven CBR Chairmen got changed in the last five years. The CBR has not verified any mutation record of Bahria housing schemes since 1997. The Commission points out that Bahria purchased total land for Rs21.1 billion during 1997-98 to 2011. It has not provided mandatory documentary evidence of mutation deeds reflecting transfer of ownership. This omission alone warrants income tax implications of Rs2.03 billion without penalty. Now you know why they still keep a CBR Chairman on contract.
Fellows, still doubt that the Malik runs the State?