The Punjab government's controversial Ashiana housing projects, launched in 2010, have been the subject of much controversy and speculation over the years.
Launched as low-cost housing schemes, the Ashiana projects were greeted with considerable enthusiasm when they launched.
Promising modest accommodation at knockdown prices, they attracted middle and lower-middle class investors desperate to secure shelter for their families as urban property prices increasingly went beyond the average citizen's reach.
However, completion hiccups and unexplained delays in balloting and allotment of completed units soon gave rise to accusations of irregularity, which culminated in 2018 with several high profile arrests.
According to a January 16 National Accountability Bureau (NAB) notification, Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif is accused of ordering the cancellation of a contract given to successful bidder Chaudhry Latif and Sons for the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme, which led to the subsequent award of the contract to Lahore Casa Developers, a proxy group of Paragon City Private Limited, resulting in a loss of Rs193 million.
He is also accused of directing the Punjab Land Development Company to assign the Ashiana-i-Iqbal project to the Lahore Development Authority, which awarded the contract to Lahore Casa developers, causing a loss of Rs715m and the ultimate failure of the project.
NAB has also accused Shahbaz of directing the Punjab Land Development Company to award the consultancy services contract for the Ashiana-i-Iqbal project to Engineering Consultancy Services Punjab for Rs192m, while the actual cost was supposed to be Rs35m as quoted by Nespak, a renowned engineering consultancy.
The other key accused in the case include Fawad Hasan Fawad, the former principal secretary to the prime minister and a senior bureaucrat.
According to the National Accountability Bureau, Fawad, while serving as implementation secretary to the Punjab chief minister in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing project, had misused his authority.
A NAB investigator had told Dawn that Fawad had issued illegal orders to the chief executive of the Punjab Land Development Company, Tahir Khursheed, to suspend the award of contract for the housing project to Chaudhry Latif and Sons.
The contract had been legally awarded to Chaudhry Latif and Sons but it was illegally suspended after eight months, the investigator had told Dawn.
An inquiry under the supervision of then finance secretary Tariq Bajwa to investigate the contract had declared the process legal and in the spirit of Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules. However, Fawad allegedly shelved the inquiry report and did not inform the authorities about it.
Chaudhry Latif and Sons were given Rs70 million as a mobilisation advance and begun work on the project. The government later had to pay an additional Rs5.9m to the company due to the illegal suspension of the contract.
The NAB investigator had said that the illegal steps taken by Fawad had not only caused an inordinate delay in the execution of the project, but also resulted in a considerable project cost hike.
NAB has also arrested Ahad Khan Cheema, former director general of the Lahore Development Authority.
Cheema was heading two power companies in Punjab prior to his arrest. The grade-19 PAS officer is accused of misusing his authority to award the 14-billion-rupee contract to a favoured development firm.
In return, Cheema reportedly received 32 kanals of land which was then allegedly transferred to various members of his family, including his cousin and sister.
NAB claims the land was bought with over Rs30 million transferred in to the account of one Paragon Housing Society.
Othe people arrested in the case include Bilal Qidwani, Imtiaz Haider, Shahid Shafiq, Sardar Saeed and Arif Butt. Saeed and Butt are currently out on bail.
Here's a timeline of Dawn stories about the Ashiana schemes.
- Pain in the name of Ashiana
The Punjab housing department's 11-year-long efforts to design a housing scheme for the poor in Jhelum are hijacked by the 'populist' Ashiana Housing Scheme, robbing the department people of due credit.
- City Diary: ‘Weird’ conditions keep applicants away from
Shady terms and conditions related to age, income, downpayment, etc for applying to the Ashiana-i-Iqbal housing scheme keeps majority of applicants at bay from investing.
- 60,000 applied for Ashiyana scheme: LDA
The Lahore Development Authority claims that as many as 60,000 people have so far applied for the allotment of apartments/flats in the Ashiyana Iqbal Housing Scheme.
- Ashiana Housing Scheme without residents
Despite construction having completed two years prior, and balloting done earlier in the year, owners still await possession of their houses.
- Ashiana Housing Scheme is home for some
The Ashiana Housing scheme becomes home for 11 families who start residing in their newly acquired homes. Keys were handed to 35 families of the 100-house scheme.
- Ashiana Iqbal ‘scam’: LDA’s ex-DG to appear before NAB today
NAB finds illegalities in a land deal between Paragon Housing society and the PLDC and proceeds to summon LDA’s former DG Ahad Cheema and two top officials of the housing society.
- Ahad testifies in Ashiana case
LDA's former DG Ahad Cheema appears before NAB and records his statement in the mega land scam involving Paragon Housing society and PLDC.
- NAB summons Shahbaz over housing scheme inquiry - January 18,
Shahbaz Sharif, the then Punjab chief minister, is summoned by NAB for the first time for his involvement in the Ashiana Housing scheme case. He stands accused of cancelling the award of contract to a successful bidder and instead giving it to a favoured company.
- Punjab govt not giving up records, says NAB chief - February 09,
NAB chairman expresses the bureau's unhappiness with the Punjab government's 'non-cooperation'on the various investigations the bureau has initiated against Shahbaz, his cabinet and senior officials.
- Ashiyana-i-Iqbal housing scam: NAB arrests LDA ex-chief Ahad Cheema - February 22, 2018
NAB arrests former head of the Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema after he fails to appear before an investigation team probing the Ashiana Housing scam.
- Ashiyana scheme: Court extends Ahad Cheema, Shahid Shafiq's
physical remand by 15 days - March 05, 2018
Ahad Cheema and Bismillah Engineering Services proprietor/partner Shahid Shafiq, both of whom were arrested a month ago in connection with the Ashiana Housing scam, are physically remanded into police custody for a further 15 days.
- NAB gets wind of Cheema’s ‘share’ in another scheme - March 09,
Ahad Cheema's share in another housing scheme, reportedly worth 400 million, is discovered by NAB while probing the Ashiana Housing scam.
- NAB arrests two Punjab officials among four in Ashiana scam - March
In a breakthrough in the Ashiana Housing probe, NAB arrests four suspects including two Punjab government officials, after they fail to clarify their position.
- NAB quizzes three secretaries in Saaf Pani and other projects -
March 14, 2018
NAB questions three Punjab government secretaries over the affairs of the Punjab Saaf Pani Company in line with a probe into the 56 public-sector companies formed by the Shahbaz Sharif administration in Punjab.
- Absence of Ahad Cheema’s counsel offends LHC - March 27, 2018
Ahad Cheema fails to appear during the hearing of a petition against his arrest, causing great offense to the Lahore High Court.
- Two officials become approvers against Cheema - March 30,
An LDA engineer and a PLDC engineer allegedly become approvers against Ahad Cheema after recording their confessional statements with NAB.
- Ahad Cheema’s plea declared non-maintainable - April 04, 2018
A petition against Ahad Cheema's arrest is declared non-maintainable by the Lahore High Court as an arrest cannot be challenged while a suspect is under physical remand.
- Physical remand extended again: NAB claims Cheema, spouse
maintained foreign currency accounts - April 27, 2018
Ahad Cheema remanded into physical custody for 15 more days as NAB discovers foreign currency account records from his laptop.
- Paragon chief’s brothers held in Ashiana scam - May 12, 2018
NAB arrests Munir Zia and Umer Zia, brothers of the chief executive of Paragon City Nadim Zia. The suspects were business partners in Bismillah Engineering Services that engaged in the construction of low-cost housing scheme of the Punjab government in January 2015.
- Two of Cheema’s co-accused set on bail - May 17, 2018
Ahad Cheema's co-accused in the Ashiana Housing scam are released on bail after becoming approvers and are instructed not to travel abroad.
- Ahad Cheema sent on 15-days judicial remand in Ashiana Housing
Scheme case - May 21, 2018
Ahad Cheema is placed on 15-day judicial remand after details of assets beyond his income emerge, including land worth Rs70 million.
- Luxury car, Rs14.5m in cash ‘belonging to Cheema’ seized - May 29,
NAB seizes a luxury car and Rs14.5 million in cash allegedly belonging to Ahad Cheema as it delves deeper into the Ashiana Housing scheme probe.
- Judicial remand of Ahad Cheema and others extended - June 05,
An accountability court approves a 14-day extension of a judicial remand on Ahad Cheema as it observes that Cheema being head of the LDA awarded without any bidding a Rs14 billion contract to a joint venture led by Lahore Casa Company.
- NAB wants 23 bureaucrats ‘close to Sharifs’ on ECL - June 24,
NAB recommends the placement of 23 bureaucrats believed to be close to the Sharif family on the exit control list (ECL) in the backdrop of Ashiana Housing scam and other corruption cases.
- Fawad Hassan Fawad arrested by NAB in Ashiana housing scam - July
Civil Services Academy Director General Fawad Hassan Fawad is arrested by NAB after a court hearing requiring him to provide evidence against his involvement in the Ashiana Housing scam. Fawad as implementation secretary to Shahbaz Sharif stands accused of awarding the Ashiana contract to a 'favourite' firm.
- Fawad remanded in 14-day NAB custody - July 07, 2018
Fawad is placed under 14-day physical remand to the NAB in connection with a probe into the Ashiana Housing scam.
- NAB seizes documents, gadgets in raid on Fawad’s house - July 08,
NAB raids Fawad's house and seizes crucial documents and other equipment to conduct a forensic audit in light of revelations during initial investigation into the Ashiana probe.
- Saaf Pani, Ashiana scams: Officers in NAB custody ‘incriminate’
Shahbaz - August 03, 2018
Former CEO of the Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC) Wasim Ajmal accuses Shahbaz Sharif of making him (Ajmal) a scapegoat to save his son-in-law Imran Ali Yousaf in the PSPC scam.
- NAB detects Fawad’s properties worth billions - August 09,
NAB discovers that a multi-storey plaza in Rawalpindi worth billions belongs Fawad and his family members.
- Textile mills chief executive summoned in Fawad case - August 11,
NAB summons the CEO of a textile mill after discovering he has information/evidence which relates to an offence committed by Fawad in contravention to the provisions of NAO.
- LHC seeks NAB's reply over Fawad Hasan Fawad's petition against
'wrongful arrest' - August 15, 2018
Fawad challenges his 'illegal' arrest in a petition to the LHC prompting the court to seek NAB's response in the matter.
- NAB summons Shahbaz today in three corruption cases - August 20,
NAB summons Shahbaz for his alleged involvement in three corruption cases namely, the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme, Punjab Power Development Company (PPDC) and the potable water project of the Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC).
- Shahbaz appears before NAB investigators - August 21, 2018
Shahbaz appears before NAB officials and is 'given a tough time' as he provides details of the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme, Punjab Power Development Company (PPDC) and the potable water project of the Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC).
- NAB to file reference against Ahad Cheema - September 29,
NAB decides to file reference against Ahad Cheema for possessing assets worth Rs700 million beyond his known sources of income.
- Fawad sent to jail after NAB denied custody - October 02,
An accountability court in Lahore denies NAB further custody of Fawad and sends him to jail on judicial remand till October 16.
- NAB resummons Shahbaz on 5th - October 04, 2018
Shahbaz is resummoned by NAB to answer for the Saaf Pani Company scam.
- Shahbaz Sharif arrested by NAB Lahore in Ashiana Housing scam case - October 05, 2018
Shahbaz appears before NAB in connection with the Saaf Pani probe and is arrested by NAB at its Lahore office in the Rs14 billion Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case.