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Monday, March 27, 2023

Was the Sharif Family’s Jati Umrah Palace built on government land?

The investigation to date reveals that the 1580 Kanal palace was built on the state's land which was illegally transferred from the state to some random individuals, and later transferred from those individuals to the sharif family over a period of years resulting in the current palatial estate.

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The recent investigations to date by the Punjab Government on the Jati Umrah, earlier known as Mouza Manak, have revealed that the famous Sharif Family Palatial estate is built on the government land. The investigation suggests that the mansions built in the 1990s were on land that was allegedly acquired through fake allotment.

As recently explained by Adviser to Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar that the revenue department has canceled the transfer of 839-Kanal land to the Sharifs as the state’s land was transferred via a forged letter. He added that no record of such land transfer was found in the Record of Rights.

The issue came to light when the children of late Abbas Sharif, the youngest brother of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif approached the civil court to direct the concerned department to declare them as the owners in possession of the land and the legal heirs of late Begum Shamim Akhtar.

Read More: After Maryam Nawaz, LHC grants bail to Shehbaz Sharif

The land under question was transferred to the Sharif brothers’ mother Begum Shamim Akhtar, who passed away in 2020. Among the 1580 kanals of land under the possession of the family today, the 1180 kanals are agricultural and the rest of the 400 kanals comprise mansions built by the family.

According to the record, the state’s land was transferred to three people namely Waheeda Begum, Muhammad Ali, and one other person. It is believed that this happened on the orders of a deputy secretary of revenue between 1989 and 1994.

However, when the authorities investigated the matter, they learned that the Punjab revenue department did not have any record of the transfer of land to any of the individuals named above. The revenue department also maintained that the state land could not be transferred to any individual.  This means that the title of the transferor was faulty, making the title defective.

Thus, the letter from the Deputy Secretary Board of Revenue directed the Additional Deputy Commissioner Lahore to ‘restore the original status of the land,’ to the government of Punjab.

The Aftermath to the letter

The real dilemma remains whether, the government and bureaucracy can fairly investigate one of the strongest families of Pakistan and Punjab, whose head Nawaz Sharif has been the Prime Minister of Pakistan thrice, and his brother Shehbaz Sharif has been the Chief Minister of Punjab for four terms.

The recent comments by the President Pakistan Muslim League (N) Punjab Rana Sanaullah threatening the Chief Secretary and Deputy Commissioner of Lahore and their children stating, “you have to live here (referring to Pakistan) and your children have to live here, unlike Imran Khan and his kids.” These kinds of threats on the civil servants, tasked with executing the orders, may prove detrimental to the progress of the investigation.

Even though the civil court has maintained the status quo on Jati Umrah residence based on ‘the first view’ as required by the law, the investigation has revealed sufficient gaps in the claims of the property title of the Sharif Family.

Read More: Nawaz Sharif be given 14-year imprisonment in Al-Azizia case, NAB pleads with IHC

It remains to be seen if the provincial government wants to challenge a party like PML-N by shaking them to their core, via the act of demolishing their personal mansions in the provincial capital, which is the hub of the party.

This would be the course of action according to the precedent, as in the past houses such as “Khokhar Palace”, the residences of PML-N leader Saiful Malook Khokhar, have been demolished.

Otherwise, the government would have to levy fines worth the actual price of the land, which would also be a heavy blow to the party which is going through a setback politically and now personally.