LAHORE: The Supreme Court on Saturday ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to recover salaries from former Lahore Development Authority (LDA) director general Ahad Cheema that he received being the chief executive officer of the Bhikki power plant over and above his regular salary.
Earlier, NAB brought Mr Cheema from jail on the direction of Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar in a case related to the LDA City housing scheme. He is an under-trial prisoner for his involvement in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal scam.
The CJP rebuked him for misusing the public exchequer for development schemes such as the Orange Line Metro Train project and also showed displeasure with NAB for its poor investigation in the case. “I can tell you they will all be freed soon. Solving a white-collar crime is not an easy task,” the CJP reminded the NAB counsel.
Ex-LDA chief received Rs1.4m a month as Bhikki power plant CEO whereas his regular salary was around Rs100,000
Answering a court query, Mr Cheema explained that the LDA had decided to outsource the acquisition of land for the housing scheme to avoid litigation. He said a big housing scheme of the authority namely the LDA Avenue-I had not been accomplished so far due to litigation despite the lapse of decades. He said the government adopted the idea of public-private partnership from the Defence Housing Authority model.
Mr Cheema claimed that the process of land acquisition was going smoothly till NAB intervention.
Unimpressed with the explanation offered by Mr Cheema, CJP Nisar snubbed him saying such kind of briefings would work before a chief minister but not in court.
When asked, Mr Cheema said he was getting a Rs1.4 million monthly salary as the CEO of Bhikki power plant whereas his regular salary was around Rs100,000. To justify his salary, he said the government had made a policy to hire competent officials on market-based salaries. The CJP observed that the beneficiaries of the market-based salaries were the real brain behind the discriminatory policy.
“Why you have not returned the excess salary while other officers have already surrendered theirs as per the court order,” the CJP asked Mr Cheema. “I have no money. And I have not been informed about such an order in jail,” Mr Cheema replied and also complained about his ‘deteriorating’ health in the jail.
CJP Nisar directed NAB to recover the excess salaries from Mr Cheema by confiscating his properties if he did not have cash. He said the court would order Mr Cheema’s medical checkup at
any government hospital if he filed an application.
Meanwhile, the court directed LDA Director General Amina Imran Khan and lawyers for three development companies / partners to reach a solution to meet deficiency of the land to complete the LDA City housing scheme.
Lawyers for Urban Developers, Maymar Housing and Pak-Estate undertook before the court that they were ready to acquire the required land for the LDA. Urban Developers’ counsel Ahsan Bhoon said if the court ordered, his client was ready to acquire the deficient land measuring 20,000 kanals for the whole project.
The court adjourned the hearing till Dec 29.
Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2018