ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday filed a corruption reference against four former army officers, after the matter remained dormant for more than 17 years.

According to NAB, the reference has been filed in the Islamabad Accountability Court against retired Lt Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi, who served as ISI chief, as Pakistan Railways chairman and as federal minister for communications and railways.

Other suspects include retired Lt Gen Saeed-uz-Zaman, a former secretary and chairman of the Railways Board, retired Maj Gen Hamid Hassan Butt, retired Brig Akhtar Ali Baig, Iqbal Samad Khan, Khurshid Ahmed Khan, Abdul Ghaffar, Ramzan Sheikh, Pervaiz Qureshi, sponsors of Royal Palm Golf Club and five other officers allegedly involved in illegal award of lease of railways golf club, Lahore.

NAB’s investigation said in 2001, Pakistan Railways offered the lease of its golf club at canal bank, Lahore, for 33 years for which a number of firms submitted bids, including a private firm Max Corps. During the bidding process, the lease period was illegally enhanced from 33 years to 49 years.

Suspects are allegedly involved in illegal award of lease of railways golf club in 2001

Moreover, the land offered also increased illegally from 103 acres to 140 acres by demolishing the railway officers colony. Hence the precious piece of land of Pakistan Railways was leased out illegally in a non-transparent manner in order to grant illegal benefits to the leaseholder and owner of a private firm, Mainland Hasnain Pakistan Ltd.

According to NAB, it has been established during the investigation that accused persons had committed corruption through misuse of authority by illegally awarding 49-year lease of railways golf club measuring 140 acres in 2001 to Mainland Hasnain Pakistan Ltd for commercial purposes, causing a loss of around Rs2.2 billion to the national exchequer.

The reference against the four army officers had been filed after observation of the Islamabad High Court last month that retired military officers could not hide behind the army’s accountability process.

Interestingly, military officials had been summoned by NAB in the same case in 2012 for recording their statements but nothing was done against them.

The Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly in its meeting on Sept 14, 2012, called for the cancellation of the controversial agreement. It had recommended a fresh bidding for the land and also called for strict disciplinary action against the former bosses of the railways, including the three retired generals, who had endorsed the agreement.

A comprehensive report issued by the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Railways on allotment of land for setting up the golf club had revealed several financial and administrative irregularities and recommended prosecution of all members of the railways executive committee.

The Federal Investigation Agency carried out a separate investigation on the special committee’s instruction and its report said 141 acres had been allotted at a nominal price, causing a loss of Rs4.82bn to the national exchequer because the land utilisation charge had been reduced from Rs52.43 to only Rs4 per square yard.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2018