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PESHAWAR: Questioning transparency in the matters of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project, the Peshawar High Court has asked the National Accountability Bureau to look into the delay in the initiative’s completion, cost escalation, and award of contract.

A bench consisting of Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Mussarat Hilali gave the anti-accountability watchdog time until Sept 5 to complete inquiry and submit report, and adjourned hearing into the matter until then.

The bench observed: “After hearing arguments at great length, we feel it appropriate to refer the matter to the NAB authorities for conducting proper investigation/ inquiry due to the fact that 50 % scope of the work has been enhanced and last date of completion of the project was 21st/ 24th June 2018.”

Orders NAB to conduct inquiry, submit report by Sept 5

It observed that initially, Rs49.3 billion was approved and at present revised PC-I has been processed for approval with Rs67.9 billion cost.

“We have been informed that the contract has been given to a firm, who was blacklisted in same type of work by other province, under mala fide intention. We have also been informed that from different necessary project schemes, the amount has been allocated for this project without considering the fact that the other projects were also necessary and important for public purpose,” the bench observed.

“The delay, the contract awarding process, feasibility and all the issues relating to the project of Peshawar Sustainable Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Project (BRT) are all shady and shaky and as such, the NAB authorities are directed to conduct proper investigation/inquiry transparency of the project and submit its report before the next date.”

The bench also relieved Peshawar Development Authority director general Israrul Haq as the BRT project director and ordered his repatriation to the Auditor General of Pakistan in line with the Apr 17, 2018, notification.

After the issuance of the said notification, the high court had asked him to continue as project director for the sake of continuity of the project.

The bench observed that the Auditor General of Pakistan had repatriated his employee, Israrul Haq, from Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to its parent department and further posted him as director (finance and budget) Ministry of Railways, Islamabad.

“Since Mr Israrul Haq is the employee of Federation of Pakistan/Auditor General of Pakistan and has been repatriated from Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, therefore, under no circumstance, he can be retained by the provincial government or for that matter by this court,” it ruled.

The court added that the project director could be appointed from among anyone from the provincial cadre or for that matter from the PDA and therefore, Mr Israraul Haq was relieved as the BRT project director forthwith.

On Dec 7, the PHC had declared the BRT Project, a flagship project of the then PTI government, in accordance with the law but expressed dissatisfaction with the alternative traffic plan prepared by the traffic police for it.

The court had disposed of two petitions challenging the BRT project on multiple grounds, with certain observations and directives for the relevant officials, including the KP Inspector General of Police and EPA DG.

One petition was filed jointly by former provincial minister Amanullah Haqqani and citizen Wali Khan and the other by environmentalist Abid Zareef.

Since then, the court has been conducting hearing into the progress reports submitted by different departments, including the DIG (traffic) and Commanding Officer of the Military Police of Cantonment, Peshawar.

From time to time, the government’s representatives gave different dates to the court for completion of the project but they all turned out to false.

PDA TO CHALLENGE ORDER: The PDA on Thursday announced that it would challenge the high court’s NAB inquiry order in the Supreme Court as the BRT contract was awarded by the company approved by the Asian Development Bank in accordance with the law as declared by the high court.

In a statement issued here, the PDA claimed that the project contractor was considered to be a pioneer in the start of metro bus services in the country.

It added that the decision to blacklist the contractor by the Lahore Development Authority had already been set aside by the Lahore High Court.

The PDA said the authorities of the project had already been cooperating with the NAB and had provided it all the relevant record. The delay in completion of project, it is added, was because of changes in the design at several places due to which the cost of the project had also enhanced.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2018