Hook, line and sinker in housing schemes

Whichever the case may be, but there is no denying the fact that bureaucracy treats every case like a hot potato

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Growing at a fast pace, the middle class in Pakistan is facing some serious issues – financial and property scams. Unfortunately, these are aplenty and constantly increasing. Housing or property scams are the common frauds committed by the unscrupulous owners of the societies.

Housing societies are meant to provide housing with all the modern day amenities to its members but, in fact, it is not the case. There are few societies who are actually providing all the services they promised to their members while the others employ the same classic technique of devouring the hard earned money of the ordinary citizens.

The murky situation is evident from the mind boggling fact that over 69% of all the housing societies are not registered, official data revealed in December 2020. Frauds worth more than Rs300 billion against the different societies are registered and there is no quoted figure for the unregistered cases of frauds.

The societies set the ball rolling by grabbing the land and, apparently, start developing the infrastructure to market their product. Meanwhile, property dealers join the clout and lay it on thick to  collect money from the people by showing them the alluring maps, giving affordable installment plans and ensuring the best facilities. Poor man gets attracted to it and books the plot thinking he will have his own house after some years.

But what follows is astounding. To amass more money, the societies indulge in unending avaricious activities including duplication – reselling the plots already sold and off-grounding – selling files having no physical existence at the time of sale and their existence depends upon future land acquisition. The sales are thus augmented and property dealers act as catalysts who get plots in return for their services.

By the time the people realize that they have been hoodwinked, the society owner would have fled the country leaving them with few papers having no actual worth. The affectees then head to the office of the society, ask the management about physical possession and get the same answer every time that new land is being acquired and all issues will be settled within a couple of months. After passing several, they get the same answer which leaves them with the option of strike in front of  society, development authority’s office and the NAB.

Finally, one day, NAB takes notice and ensures the refund of the investment or physical possession of the plots, whichever the case may be, but there is no denying the fact that bureaucracy treats every case like a hot potato – transferring files from one office to the other and shifting responsibilities. If the society has or plans to have the adequate land, physical possession is given to the sufferers otherwise the investment is refunded but in installments which means that the affectees have to wait for 1-2 years to get all their money back. Ideally, the returned money should include the inflation adjustment or the appraised amount but, in practice, this is never the case.

Some of the aggrieved either file complaints on the Citizen’s Portal or go to the court for seeking justice but the traditional delaying technique in litigation is a global issue and Pakistan is no exception. Marred by delays and pendency, the courts inadvertently provide relief and time to the defendant who also threatens the complainant to withdraw the complaint or face the consequences. If there are no delays, the defendant, in most of the cases, is granted some months’ time to settle the issue and at the lapse of the given time, more time is provided and the same process ensues.

In all this, the ordinary citizens suffer, their lifetime savings are invested in buying plots for their heirs, nonetheless, they are left stranded in the ocean of uncertainty not knowing what to do. The plight of the common citizens is underlined by the house price to income ratio of 20:1 in Pakistan as compared to a global average of 5:1.

Like many other ordinary citizens, the writer’s father is also struggling to get the physical possession of the off-ground plot, he will surely get it when the cows come home.


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