Friday, August 14, 2009

Why this throwaway sale of state property in Karachi?

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: At a time when the real estate market in Pakistan is facing an unusual downward trend, the federal government has decided to auction some of its prime properties in Karachi, owned by the Abandoned Properties Organisation (APO).

No sound explanation is offered by the authorities concerned as to why the government is in an indecent haste to sell the properties when it is bound to get hundreds of millions less because of the current bad patch for the real estate business.

August 19 has been set for the auction of eight prime properties, both residential and commercial, of the APO located at Bath Island, PECHS, Arambagh, Federal B Area, Al-Hilal Cooperative Housing Society and Chakiwara.

The authorities are expecting to fetch around Rs 300 million from this auction but a source terms it a “loot sale” to the disadvantage of the government. “This particular auction looks like that it is aimed at providing benefit to oneís own closely related people,” the source said, adding that there was no explanation why the government was eager to sell the abandoned properties at this time.

These sources said even the Pak-PWD had intimated the APO that these properties had lost more than 25 per cent of their actual value of 2006-07 because of the unfriendly market conditions.

Although, Additional Secretary Cabinet Zahid Mehmood, who is the head of the Abandoned Property Board, was not available for comments, an official of the APO based in Karachi assured that the auction would be done in a transparent manner.

The APO official, on condition of not being named, said that these properties were illegally occupied by different persons, including retired bureaucrats, who were paying nominal rent to the government.

He said once auctioned, from the proceeds of these properties the government could earn more by investing the receipt money in saving schemes, etc. Because of unending litigation, most of the abando-ned properties remain us-eless for the government, he added.

The APO official, however, had no explanation when asked as to why the government did not wait for some time in order to get better prices. The Abandoned Properties Organisation is an autonomous body under the Cabinet Division.

These are the properties which were left by Bengali nationals before or after the war of 1971 when East Pakistan became Bangladesh. These properties were then taken over by the government just like the properties left by the Hindus and the Sikhs and are called the ‘Evacuated Trust Property’.

Karachi is today believed to be the worst victim of land mafia, where the state-owned land and properties are being grabbed by powerful and influential groups and individuals. During the last few years, government properties worth hundreds of billions of rupees were lost but there has been no action on part of the government. (The News)

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