LAHORE: Senior Punjab minister Mian Aslam Iqbal came out swinging against former party stalwart Aleem Khan and his real estate housing project, the Park View Society. At a press conference held at 90 Mall Road Lahore, Iqbal claimed that the housing scheme had committed fraud worth Rs 250-300 billion.
The project has been a contentious issue for a few years now, and has taken a political twist ever since Aleem Khan left the PTI and switched allegiance towards the PML-N during the brief period in which Hamza Shehbaz was Chief Minister. The origins of the project can be traced back to the early 2000s, when Multan Road and Ferozepur Road were becoming very attractive for new housing societies. The River Edge housing society was kickstarted as a project by a developer named Ammar Khan in 2004. Two years later he got approval from the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) to begin his work. At that time the total land owned by this society was approximately 765 kanal as per documents.
A company named Vision Developers Private Limited, owned by Abdul Aleem Khan, bought River Edge in 2010 and immediately renamed it Park View Villas. This is where the issue began. According to one source in the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), in 2012, Vision Developers requested the LDA to extend the project in the Revised Master Plan of the Authority. “Since the said housing project was also including agricultural land in the project area, the LDA refused to extend it.” Next, Park View Villas presented its case to the then Secretary Housing Punjab who also made it clear that the said project is being built on a green area according to the LDA master plan of 2004, which by virtue of being old and later revised cannot be allowed. “It should not be extended even an inch beyond 765 kanals,” said the source.
The current situation — as per the govt
In the press conference, Iqbal brought up this contentious issue of the 765 kanals. The accusation against Aleem Khan is that he used his influence over the LDA to extend the project beyond what was legal and had trapped a large number of unwitting investors who were impressed by his heavy marketing budget.
“Any housing society can be established only under an original master plan, but the land mafia has cheated the people by selling 15,000 to 16,000 additional plots in the green area,” he said. “River Edge Housing Society is approved only on 765 kanal of land and nothing can be constructed on even an inch of it. In this regard, the case is in the court, yet the development works are carried out here brazenly by this mafia.
This is actually quite typical of how real estate works in Pakistan. Developers buy a certain amount of land and create a master plan based on that, but then market themselves as much larger projects and sell plots beyond their means. They then use these funds to acquire the rest of the land which can take much longer tying up investors’ money.
“Indiscriminate actions are being taken against illegal housing societies and sellers of surplus plot files across Punjab. These mafias have become so powerful that they do not bother about the courts and the government. If legal actions are taken against them, they torture the employees of the institutions,” claimed Iqbal.
He also claimed that the subsidized electricity received for tube wells on agricultural land was sold to the residents of the society and LESCO was suffering a loss of RS 40 million per month whereas this electricity theft has been going on for the last 16 years.
“LDA (Lahore Development Authority) sent 17 notices to the owner of this illegal society and NAB also took notice but this land mafia does not care about it. He [Aleem Khan] stole the land of the plots of the poor in his society and built a mosque named his father, then he also built the grave of his father and mother on LDA land. He also sold more than ten kanals of graveyard land as a commercial plot and fraudulently declared the Christian cemetery as his society’s cemetery.”