–Anti-corruption officials hand over questionnaire to incarcerated ex-PM after he failed to recall 34-year-old issue
LAHORE: A Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) team on Tuesday interrogated ousted premier Nawaz Sharif in Kot Lakhpat prison in a case pertaining to an alleged illegal allotment of a property attached to the shrine of Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganj Shakar in Pakpattan.
The anti-corruption watchdog quizzed Sharif for an hour and placed documents dated back to 1985 in front of him.
“The documents are 34 years old. I do not remember anything,” responded the former prime minister when the team asked him if he gave an advertisement in the newspaper regarding the allotment.
“On what grounds was the land allotted and which officers issued the orders for the allotment?” asked the investigators, adding: “On what basis the land was allotted to Dewan Qutub?”
According to sources, the former prime minister reiterated that he did not remember as the case was decades old; however, all legal requirements were completed.
“I had fulfilled all the legal requirements but I do not remember the details. I had worked under the parameters of the law and the constitution and never misused my authority. I have always served the country,” Sharif added.
“I would further respond over the matter after consulting my legal team,” he said.
The anti-corruption team handed over a questionnaire to Sharif and returned.
In February, Sharif requested the Supreme Court to reject the report filed by the joint investigation team (JIT) against him in the case.
In January, the JIT had filed its report in which it had recommended initiation of criminal proceedings against several individuals, including the then Punjab chief minister Nawaz Sharif for withdrawing a Dec 17, 1969 notification and allotting the huge land of Auqaf around Pakpattan to Dewan Ghulam Qutab in 1986, allegedly in violation of a Lahore High Court (LHC) order.
After the partition, Dewan Ghulam Qutab and his family were the owners of the shrine’s land as per the revenue records dating from 1947 to 1958.
The family sold pieces of the land to different people until January 1, 1970, when the Punjab government notified the Auqaf department as the rightful owner of the land and the Dewans, the custodian of the shrine. Later, the Dewans moved the LHC but the case was decided against them.
In 1986, the government withdrew its 1970 notification and the Dewans reciprocated by withdrawing their appeal before the LHC against the decision.
With this, the Dewans resumed their land selling business and the revenue department issued ownership rights (fard) to all buyers.
In the meantime, a 1981 case regarding 17 marlas of land filed in a civil court reached the Supreme Court by 2015.
The apex court chief justice took suo motu of the land deals of the shrine and summoned officials of the Revenue and Auqaf departments and the Dewans.
After some hearings, the top court declared the notification of August 28, 1986, illegal and nullified all land deals done since then. The decision reportedly affected 100,000 residents of different localities.
The Dewans filed a review petition last year in defense of their right to sell the land with the Supreme Court against its 2015 decision, which remained pending since then.
Former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar, during his visit to the Baba Farid shrine in 2018, had promised justice in the case when dozens of the affected people raised slogans to get his attention towards their plight.