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.

Main accused

Ahad Cheema (left), Shahbaz Sharif (centre) and Fawad Hasan Fawad (right).
Ahad Cheema (left), Shahbaz Sharif (centre) and Fawad Hasan Fawad (right).

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.

Timeline

Here's a timeline of Dawn stories about the Ashiana schemes.

2011


  • 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.

2014



2015


  • 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.

2016



2017


July

  • 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.

December


2018


January

  • NAB summons Shahbaz over housing scheme inquiry - January 18, 2018
    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.

February


March


April


May


June


July


August


September


October