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July 9, 2020

Hefty rent paid to Bugti’s grandsons amid pending NAB probe

National

July 9, 2020

ISLAMABAD: An inquiry is pending disposal with the Quetta chapter of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) into the acquisition of land for the Uch gas field (Balochistan) for which a payment of over Rs770 million has now been made to late Nawab Akbar Bugti’s three grandsons in connection with its rent.

A NAB notice issued to the Oil & Gas Development Corporation Limited (OGDCL) managing director, a copy of which is available with The News, said that the anti-corruption watchdog has received a complaint regarding corruption and corrupt practices in acquisition of land by the OGDCL for Uch gas field. It directed the OGDCL chief to provide the total area of land requested for acquisition by OGDCL; total area of land acquired; total cost and per acre cost of the acquired land; copy of mutations; details of excess land acquired, if any; the current status of the acquired land; and comments on OGDCL letter dated July 8, 2015.

This letter said after critically reviewing the area acquired for the Uch gas field and doing detailed assessment exercise, different areas of land have been found as per ground realities. The total acquired area is 1,310 acres; and areas acquired for security circle/FC posts is 90 acres. Thus, the total area (1,310 acres plus 90 acres) comes to 1,400 acres.

The letter said that the previously acquired area was 4,300 acres. So, the excess area to be de-hired is 2,900 acres. As area acquired by OGDCL is 1,400 acres, the excess land i.e. 2,900 acres may be de-hired because it is not in the use of OGDCL at the Uch gas field. It pointed out that the area of 90 acres is not in operational use of the Uch gas field and is acquired due to security purposes of the field in which several FC pickets along with approach roads etc. are present.

On Feb 25 last year, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) dismissed a petition filed in 2018 by Shazain Bugti, Gohram Bugti and Chakar Bugti, the grandsons of late Nawab Akbar Bugti, challenging the government’s notification that cancelled the contract for hiring of their land for the Uch gas field. They made the OGDCL and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources respondents.

They said that the respondents on Jan 28, 2011 signed a deal for the lease of their land in Dera Bugti. According to the agreement, they have to pay Rs125 million till date, but they kept delaying. They sought IHC direction to the respondents for payment of all outstanding dues.

IHC judge Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, while rejecting the plea, ruled that the matter is related to a contractual dispute which cannot be settled in high court as it pertains to civil court.

Prominent senior lawyer Kashif Malik, who represented the OGDCL in the IHC, argued that the petitioners wanted the government to acquire the land on lease much beyond the OGDCL requirements. He said that the Bugtis had entered into an agreement to lease out 3,300 acres cultivable and 1,000 acres uncultivable land for a period from Jan 1, 2003 to Dec 31, 2005 and the agreement was revived at different points of time. He said that the OGDCL had in 2016 issued notices to the Bugtis for de-hiring of 2,500 acres unnecessary land which was not required by the OGDCL.

Malik told The News that the young Bugtis challenged the IHC judgment in an intra-court appeal, which they have now withdrawn after a settlement with the OGDCL that resulted in payment of over Rs770m a few days back. Consequently, he said, the original decision handed by Justice Kayani stands restored.

He said an area of 2,500 acres de-hired by the OGDCL has also been included while calculating the payment to Bugtis on account of rent. Now a total area of 3,204 acres has been shown to have been hired by the OGDCL while it has only 704 acres in its use as per its assertions in the IHC, he said.

The record of the court case and OGDCL presents a complete timeline and picture of the acquisition of land since 1995 when the OGDCL entered into an agreement with late Bugti for lease of land for the Uch Field.

The following year a formal contract was executed, which was valid for a period of five years i.e. from Jan 1, 1995 to Dec 31, 1999, and was renewable through negotiations.

The OGDCL was required to give one month’s notice to the owners for de-hiring of any portion of land or for hiring additional land, as and when required.

The signatories to the agreement included Zulfiqar Ali Bugti (representative of Nawab Akbar Bugti), Said Hamayun (General Manager, Administration, OGDCL), Khawaja Tariq (Commissioner) and Muhammad Ali (Political Agent, Dera Bugti Agency).

The leased land in 1995 was 730 acres; and it came to 1,325 areas in the remaining years.

On Jan 21, 2000, after the expiry of the contract period, a negotiation committee of the OGDCL proceeded to Dera Bugti for talks with Nawab Bugti. The meeting was also attended by the Political Agent Dera Bugti and Field Manager Uch & Loti Gas Fields.

After tough and tense negotiations, a fresh agreement to become effective from Jan 1, 2000 was inked in which the hired area was increased from 1,325 acres to 4,300 acres. This was made effective to include the year 1999. In addition, rates of rent were also enhanced.

According to the credible record, in the year 2002, law and order situation deteriorated resulting in rocket attacks on the OGDCL fields at Uch, death of a FC personnel, abduction and injuries to officials of FC & OGDCL. A letter was addressed to Corps Commander, 12 Corps, and Balochistan Chief Secretary for maintaining law and order situation in the area and also reduction of the leased area from 4,300 acres to 1000 acres, as required by OGDCL.

In Feb, 2003, the land rent of 4,300 acres for the year 2002 was fixed on the directives of the then prime minister. From 1995 to 2005, payment of rent amounting to Rs404,195,400 was made to Nawab Bugti. In March that year, the OGDCL officials had a meeting with him wherein they conceded to his various demands including hiring of manpower, recommended by him.

Again, a new agreement was executed between the parties which became effective from Jan 1, 2003 till Dec 31, 2005. It was stated that while the actual area in possession of the OGDCL was around 791 acres, payment of rent for 4,300 acres was being demanded from the OGDCL. Additionally, an increase in rent was declared by the lessee from Rs12,600/acre to Rs17,600/acre for cultivable land and from Rs6,300/acre to Rs8800/acre for non-cultivable land. However, the joint demarcation of the land could not take place despite repeated reminders and even after intervention of the Balochistan chief secretary.

A total of 2,979 acres were added in the names of the legal heirs of Nawab Bugti in the initial Goshwara Malkiat (ownership details) of 1,325 acres and thus the leased land increased to 4,304 acres.

The record shows that after the death of Nawab Bugti in Aug, 2006, the land measuring 4,304 acres was inherited by his successors. Out of it, 3,204 acres of land was inherited by Shahzain Bugti, Chakar Bugti and Mir Gohram Bugti.

On Nov 13, 2015, a notice for de-hiring of 2,930 acres was issued by the OGDCL. On Jan 14, 2016, a fresh lease agreement, which expired on Dec 31, 2017, was executed between the parties. On Dec 19, 2016, a de-hiring notice in terms of Clause 10 of the lease contract was issued by the OGDCL. The de-hiring was to take effect upon completion of a two-month notice period. As a result of de-hiring, the OGDCL was left with 704 acres 29 poles for which the applicable rent up to December 31, 2017, was paid in full. The rent for the year 2018 was also credited to the accounts of Bugti’s three grandsons.

As per the record, from Jan 1, 2006 to Dec 15, 2017, the OGDCL paid annual rent amounting to Rs1,250,098,053 in respect of total land measuring 4,304 acres including payment of rent in respect of 3,204 acres. The payment of 704 acres of land retained by the OGDCL amounting to Rs37,699,258 for the year 2018 was also made.

After de-hiring of 2,500 acres, the OGDCL was obligated to pay rent for 704 acres which, it pledged, will be credited as per schedule and practice in the designated accounts.

Pursuant to the IHC order dated Feb 19, 2018, the matter regarding possession and utilisation of land of Bugti’s grandsons and payment of rent was probed by the OGDCL managing director and conveyed to them through his letter dated March 2, 2018.

The OGDCL reiterated in the IHC that except 704 acres land being utilised by OGDCL no other land belonging to the Bugtis is being used by it in any manner whatsoever and it has no concern with any excess land.

The present payment has been made with 36% increase by fixing the lease amount at Rs79,000/acre for the cultivable land and Rs22,000/acre for uncultivated land. Lease agreements have been executed till Dec 31, 2020.