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Military revives plans to shift GHQ to capital

Updated June 01, 2017
Children walk past the GHQ in Rawalpindi. — File
Children walk past the GHQ in Rawalpindi. — File

ISLAMABAD: The military has revived plans to shift General Headquarters (GHQ) from Rawalpindi to Islamabad, and is ready to kick off construction on the project.

The plan was shelved around October 2008 to 2009, at the instructions of then chief of army staff (COAS) Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, due to financial constraints.

The decision was disclosed by the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) member estate during a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) subcommittee.

An audit report raised two objections with regards to the plan which, according to the audit claim, will cost the CDA over Rs4 billion. The audit report said the CDA had acquired 870 acres in D-11 and E-10 for GHQ at a rate of Rs1,159 per square yard, but allotted the land to GHQ at a subsidised rate of Rs200 per sq yd.

PAC subcommittee directs CDA to receive full sum for land allotted to GHQ at subsidised rate

The report said the subsidised allotment “resulted into loss to the authority amounting to Rs4,034 million”.

A PAC subcommittee headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed asked whether work on the site had begun, and in response CDA Member Estate Khushal Khan said: “They have revived the plan and are about to kick off construction activities.”

Committee member Mian Abdul Manan asked why the CDA allotted subsidised land to GHQ and why the authority did not charge the full amount.

Acting CDA Chairman Sheikh Ansar Aziz responded that the prime minister at the time had approved the subsidy, but if the PAC issues directives to charge the full amount, the authority could write to the federal government to pay the CDA the entire sum. The committee subsequently issued directions for the CDA to receive the actual cost of the land and write to the federal government in this regard.

The committee was also informed that the 1960 CDA Ordinance and 1960 Islamabad Land Displaced Person Rehabilitation Policy did not allow for package deals with affected people to acquire land and built up property.

The audit pointed out that the CDA Directorate of Land went into a package deal to acquire land for GHQ, Islamic University in H-10 and for a residential sector in D-12, and allotted the affected villagers double plots. However, when the authority told the committee the land was procured mainly for GHQ, the committee took a lenient stance and settled the audit para accordingly.

Diplomatic Shuttle Service scam

The subcommittee on Wednesday directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to revive its inquiry into the private firm Diplomatic Shuttle Service, which was given the award to run buses in the Diplomatic Enclave to facilitate visa applicants.

According to Audit (Works) Director General Maqbool Gondal, the firm was awarded the contract at a rate of Rs4,444 in annual ground rent. However, the auditors said after the expiry of the contract, the authority auctioned the same service for Rs90 million.

Mr Gondal said the entire bus service case was handled by a single director, adding that when the inquiry into the matter began the original file related to the contract went missing.

“The CDA reconstructed the file, but it went missing again,” he said, adding: “Even the inquiry report on this scam disappeared.”

He recalled that a PAC subcommittee headed by Shafqat Mehmood had ordered for an inquiry to be registered, but after several months the authority did not lodge any complaint with law enforcement authorities.

The committee then asked the CDA chairman and NAB to complete the inquiry in a month and submit the report to the committee.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2017