Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Malik-an Brief

The title is inspired by the 1993 movie "The Pelican Brief." The story revolves around a legal brief, written by a law student, that correctly surmises the motive for murder of two Supreme Court Judges. The motive is the exploitation of resources in the marshlands that are home to a rare species of Pelican. Like the inspirational brief, my story is based on educated conjecture and also involves marshlands. In putting forth this theory, I have relied upon  news items that have been published in the last few weeks, some historical facts and the known modus operandi of the parties involved.

The first piece of information is the agreement between the Abu Dhabi Group and Malik Riaz of Baharia Town regarding investment worth $45 billion into Pakistan's real estate sector. An amount of $35 billion will reportedly be invested in Karachi which will include the construction of the world's tallest building.

The above report raises several questions. First of all it is reminiscent of a similar deal between Emaar properties and Port Qasim Authority worth $43 billion reported in September 2006. In the Emaar deal, the site for the project was two islands named Bundal and Budoo located a few kilometers off the Karachi coast. The Google maps satellite picture shows the island of Bundal and its proximity to the prime properties located in DHA Phase 8, Karachi. A one Kanal (600 sq-yds) plot, located in an undeveloped area of Phase 8, is currently worth in excess of Rs.12 million. The potential size of the island after reclamation is also comparable to the entire Phase 8. The  Emaar deal did not go through as later reported and the current deal appears to be a reincarnation of the same. The obvious question that arises is that the land which previously belonged to Port Qasim Authority (or Karachi Port Trust as in some other reports) is now being contracted by Malik Riaz! When was the title of the land passed on to Malik Riaz? Who is he acting on behalf of and in what capacity has he signed the agreement? No details have been announced that would answer these questions.

The second piece of information is the inauguration of Bilawal House in Baharia Town, Lahore with an estimated worth of Rs. 5 Billion. The 200 kanal house has been built by Malik Riaz and reportedly gifted to President Asif Zardari. If you read the two stories together, a picture begins to emerge. A real estate tycoon gifts the president a property worth billions. Soon after he contracts a deal which indicates that he has mysteriously acquired an interest in a property worth billions of Dollars. It appears that a secret deal has been struck between a state authority and Malik Riaz that entitles him to development rights of perhaps the most prized piece of real estate in Pakistan. The timing of the deal is also significant. As the five year tenure of the PPP government draws to a close, the deal has been finalized in haste so that the next government can be locked in. In order to pressurize the next government in honoring this dubious deal, a foreign, third party interest has been created so that international pressure can be applied if the next government tries to void the shady arrangement. A dreamy scenario of Pakistan becoming home to the tallest building in the world has been painted to sugar-coat the stinking deal.

The reason for writing this brief is to put forth questions that our media won't. The objectivity of our media has been compromised. Our channels air billions worth of advertisements from Baharia Town and have therefore lost the ability to raise the obvious questions. Till the time of writing of this brief, nobody has questioned the right of Malik Riaz to enter into such a deal or to inquire the location of the promised investment. There is an urgent need to raise this issue and seek answers to what agreements have been signed behind the scenes. Baharia Town already faces several law suits related to land grabbing across the country. Let's act in time and make noise so that the judiciary may take note and void the dubious deal.

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