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Karachi Eyesore: Top Court Seeks Records of Hyatt Regency Structure

KARACHI — A 3-member bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the attorney general of the federation to attend the next hearing and sought the record of a land in Karachi on which the abandoned Hyatt Regency Hotel structure was built.

The bench was informed that the incomplete and abandoned structure was in the possession of Aqeel Karim Dhedhi (AKD), as the federal property was leased out in 2004 to him for 99 years by the Pakistan Railways — to establish the National Commodity Exchange.

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Dhedhi’s counsel contended that the Privatization Commission had leased the land after completing all formalities.

An official of the Pakistan Railways said as per an earlier directive of the apex court, the railways land could not be leased for more than five years.

The Sindh advocate general contended that the land was meant only for railways purposes.

A federal law officer sought time from the court to file reply on this issue.

ABOUT HYATT REGENCY STRUCTURE

Dawn Report 2002: Located on an important intersection opposite hotel Pearl Continental, the project became controversial since the start of work on it in the early 70s.

The project was conceived in the early 70s by Happy Minwalla to give the city a new five-star hotel on the site of present Metropole Hotel but with the induction of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as Prime Minister, Rafi Muneer got partnership in the project in exchange for facilitation of loan funding and relocation of hotel at a site owned by the railways.

With Mumtaz Bhutto as Chief Minister of Sindh and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as Prime Minister of Pakistan, Rafi Muneer, being a close friend of both, managed to proceed with construction without a formal/registered title of the land on which construction was taking place.

The proposed transaction was for Raza Associates (A Rafi Muneer Co) to obtain the land on a lease of Rs 270,000 per year. The land was, in turn, sold to Karachi Properties (the holding company of Hyatt Regency Hotel in Karachi) co-owned by Happy Minwalla and Muneer for a sum of Rs 10 million.

With over Rs 130 million already disbursed by nationalized banks, a lot of equipment and crockery already arrived, the building structure quite advanced, all before the formal registration of the land transaction and the government changed in 1977 and General Jehandad, the then Governor of Sindh, stopped the construction and put Happy Minwalla and Rafi Muneer behind bars for irregularities related to the hotel.

Subsequently while interest on loans kept on mounting, transactions were reportedly made into different names from time to time.

As the structure remained incomplete and became an eyesore, the task force on economic revival of Sindh in early 2000s recommended that the project be revived or demolished as all such abandoned projects ware giving an ugly look as these ware a manifestation of an adverse image to investors.

Subsequently, some influential parties showed interest in the purchase of the project, offered for sale by the Privatization Commission.

The parties at that time which appeared interested in taking over the project wanted to turn it into a most modern five-start hotel and included the operators of Serena hotels.