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ISLAMABAD: The Natio­nal Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday sought over one-and-a-half month adjournment in the hearing of a corruption reference against some former senior army officials since some accused are outside the country and the bureau is planning to bring them back with the help of the ministry of foreign affairs.

Accountability Court judge Mohammad Bashir adjour­ned the proceedings in the Royal Palm Golf Club corruption reference till Aug 3.

On Friday, all the accused persons, except Brig Akhtar Ali Baig and three accused persons of Malaysian origin, were absent. The court had summoned all the accused to hand over to them the copies of the reference to frame charges against them at a later stage.

A NAB official told the court that it was trying to involve the foreign affairs ministry to bring all the accused persons, including a Malaysian citizen, in the dock.

NAB filed the reference in April this year after the matter remained dormant for 17 years.

Those nominated as accused by NAB include former ISI chief retired Lt Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi, who was also former chairman of the Pakistan Railways and former federal minister for communications and railways’, 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 the Royal Palm Golf Club, and five other officers allegedly involved in illegal award of lease of Railways Golf Club in Lahore.

NAB’s investigation said in 2001, the railways offered the lease of its golf club in Lahore for 33 years for which several firms submitted bids. During the bidding process, the lease period was illegally enhanced from 33 years to 49 years. Moreover, the land offered for lease was also increased illegally from 103 acres to 140 acres by demolishing the Railway Officers Colony. Hence the precious piece of land of the railways was leased out illegally in a non-transparent manner to grant illegal benefits to the leaseholder and owner of Mainland Hasnain Pakistan Ltd, a private firm.

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 that retired military officials could not hide behind the army’s accountability process.

Interestingly, the military officials had been summoned by NAB in the same case in 2012 for recording their statements but no action was taken against them.

The Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, in its meeting on Sept 14, 2012, had called for cancellation of the controversial lease 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 the allotment of land for setting up the golf club had exposed 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. Its report said that 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, June 23rd, 2018