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NAB arrests CDA officials, Safa Gold Mall owner

Updated November 21, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: In a major development, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday arrested three officials of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the owner of the Safa Gold Mall on charges of corrupt practices.

NAB took the action after the CDA board recently decided to cancel the plot allotted to Safa Gold Mall over constructing three illegal storeys and other violations in the building plan.

NAB Rawalpindi arrested former deputy director general building control Ghulam Murtaza Malik, who retired a few months ago; director architecture Khalil Ahmed, who served as deputy director building control while the plaza was being constructed; then-deputy director Ammar Idress, who is currently posted at the Parliament Lodges; and mall owner Rana Abdul Qayyum.

“Today, we arrested these people for corrupt practices in Safa Gold Mall case, the accused will be produced before the accountability court on Tuesday,” said Mohammad Bilal, an information officer of NAB.

CDA had auctioned Plot Number 5 in Jinnah Super Market in 2010, where it’s health department was once located. But in a highly questionable move, the civic agency converted the health facility into a commercial plot. “In the allotment letter, it was clearly defined that the floor-area ratio of the building would be 1:5 with 100pc coverage and the number of storeys was ground plus four, thus capping the height of the building.

In no case could the number of storeys be enhanced in violation of the relevant planning parameters and clauses of the allotment letter,” read an inquiry report of the CDA.

The said inquiry report was finalised by a committee, which was tasked to probe the role of the four officials.

However, the inquiry committee had cleared two officials, Mr Sindhu and Ali Abdullah, and held two others responsible for giving undue favours to the allottees.

The committee had also recommended that the three illegally-built storeys be removed, but acting CDA chairman Sheikh Anser Aziz ordered a de-novo inquiry, saying that just two officials could not be involved in this mega-scam. However, the fresh inquiry has not been finalised as yet.

It is worth mentioning here that two CDA officials— former director building control Shafi Marwat and legal advisor Kashif Malik— had played a leading role in exposing violations committed by the owner of the mall.

The case is still pending before the Islamabad High Court, which had directed CDA to come up with a solution. CDA Member (Planning) Asad Kayani had proposed before the board that Rs1.7 billion penalty should be imposed on the violators but the CDA decided to cancel the plot and it would place its decision of cancellation of the plot before the court for final decision.

Following this development, the NAB, which first had started investigation in the dubious project back in 2013, finally took action against the officials involved in the scam. Sources in CDA said that in 2013, at one stage NAB had cleared the project, but later on new inquiry was initiated.

“We appreciate new NAB chairman Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal for taking action against the tainted officials of CDA, but we also request him to also take action against those NAB officials, who played delaying tactics in this case,” said an official of CDA, who requested not to be named.

He said that if proper inquiry is conducted then several other officials of CDA could be found guilty in this case. “It’s also astonishing that de-novo inquiry has been facing delay in completion for the last one year,” he said.

When contacted, mayor and acting CDA chief Sheikh Anser Aziz termed the arrests of CDA officials a positive development. “It’s a good initiative; we have already cancelled the plot,” he said, adding that the de-novo inquiry would be finalised at the “earliest”.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2017