ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday arrested four former and serving senior Capital Development Authority (CDA) officials as well as a contractor for the illegal award of a contract for a shuttle service running in the Diplomatic Enclave.

Those arrested include former CDA member planning retired Brig Nusratullah and Ghulam Sarwar Sandhu, who was promoting to director general planning but later demoted to deputy director.

Mr Nusrat was a serving brigadier when he was appointed member planning during the Musharraf regime. Mr Sandhu was promoted from deputy director to director general in the same era, but was then demoted as a result of other charges against him.

NAB has kept the names of the two serving officials secret. However NAB sources confirmed that the service’s contractor was also taken into custody.

The suspects will be produced before an Islamabad accountability court today (Friday) to seek permission for their physical remand to NAB custody. Sources in NAB told Dawn that nine officials are wanted by the bureau in the case, and more arrests are expected in days to come.

They said the arrested individuals are accused of awarding the contract to run a shuttle service in the Diplomatic Enclave to a favoured firm. They are also accused of providing five acres of CDA land to the firm’s owner at a throwaway annual rent amounting to just Rs4,200.

The shuttle service contract was initially awarded for the 2007 to 2010 period, but was later extended to 2017. It was awarded by the CDA’s planning wing despite the fact that it was the sole prerogative of the Directorate of Municipal Administration.

Former Islamabad High Court (IHC) justice Shaukat Siddiqui had taken notice of the ‘illegal’ contract. A commission was later formed, headed by retired Supreme Court justice Sardar Raza Khan, which declared Mr Nusratullah and Mr Sandhi guilty and referred the case to NAB.

The bureau initiated an inquiry into alleged irregularities and favouritism in the award of the contract to run a shuttle service for visa applicants in the Diplomatic Enclave in May 2012.

A document obtained from the CDA revealed that former CDA bosses had leased 36 kanals of land, worth billions of rupees, on 3rd Avenue close to the Diplomatic Enclave to the firm running the shuttle service at the rate of Rs2 per square yard per year.

The service was first launched in 2005, when the entry of vehicles to the enclave was restricted and visa applicants were forced to travel to the embassies and missions inside on foot.

The service’s originating point was later moved from the Jinnah Convention Centre to 3rd Avenue, where the firm set up a bus stand on CDA land.

The two-way ticket for the shuttle service when it started in 2005 was just Rs20 per passenger. It was later increased to Rs500, and nobody in the CDA asked the contractor to revise the fare.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2018