LDA officers stay away from offices ‘fearing ACE action’

Updated 20 Feb 2019

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Two FIRs have been registered by ACE regarding alleged corruption in different projects. — File photo
Two FIRs have been registered by ACE regarding alleged corruption in different projects. — File photo

LAHORE: Most of senior and junior officers of the Lahore Development Authority avoided attending their offices on Tuesday, apparently fearing arrest or any other action after registration of two FIRs by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) late on Monday night.

The disappearance of the officers also affected the routine public service delivery operations of the LDA.

“Most of the directors, deputy directors and assistant directors working in different sections of the town planning, metropolitan planning and urban development wings didn’t come to their offices. They were also reportedly away from their houses. Similarly, the additional directors general (ADGs) for housing, urban planning and headquarters were also not present at their offices,” an official source told Dawn.

“The chief town planner (CTP) and the chief metropolitan planner (CMP) were also not present in their offices today (Tuesday). The LDA director general too was reportedly in Islamabad since Monday,” he added.

According to the FIR No13/19 registered by the ACE on Feb 18 under sections 468, 471, 218, 420 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the ACE came to know that M/s Dream Housing Pvt Limited submitted an application to the LDA for planning permission of the scheme located on main Raiwind Road, Lahore.

“The approach road for the scheme was mentioned through Khasra Nos. 2143, 2144 and 2145 that were owned by the central government. There was no approach road/link to the scheme other than the land owned by the central government. The planning permission to the housing scheme was granted by the LDA despite knowing the fact that the land the applicant has shown for the approach road is owned by the central government. The act of issuing the planning permission by the authority despite knowing the fact the land is owned by the central government as pointed out by the complainant is agaisnt the rules of LDA. The LDA being the competent authority as well as revenue department are involved in issuing the planning permission to the Dream Housing Scheme,” reads the FIR.

It says that after conducting the inquiry, retired Col Ghulam Mustafa Hussain (director operations of the scheme), Shakeel Minhas (the then CMP) and Muzammail Ishtiaq (director MP) were found responsible. It also says that the role of the LDA DG, chief settlement commissioner and others would be determined during investigation.

In another FIR No 4/19 registered on Feb 16 under sections 420, 468, 471, 409, 218 and 5/2/45, the ACE said it was tipped off that the LDA officers started construction of a stadium at Jubilee Town without approval of any authority, tender processing etc and awarded a contract for its construction. Taking action, the ACE after conducting inquiry No.53/19-LHR found Mr Zarif Iqbal Satti (ADG-Housing), Inam Ahmad (Director Engineering) and Malik Naseer Iqbal (CEO Pak Lines Cricket Academy) involved in the case. “However, the role of LDA DG, officers and others will be determined during investigation,” it reads.

On the other hand, the LDA DG Ms Amna Imran Khan reportedly challenged the ACE’s action in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

“She filed a contempt petition in the apex court on Tuesday, stating that the ACE flouted the court orders by registering an FIR against her and other officials. The court while hearing the petition, summoned the ACE DG, chief secretary and others concerned for Wednesday (today). The DG also got protective bail from the relevant court,” explained another official source.

He said the ACE should take such actions after thorough investigations and not on the basis of ‘source report’. “When the accused will be tried by the court, how the ACE would produce an anonymous source before the court as witness?” he questioned.

An ACE officer said the FIRs were registered against the nominated officers (not the LDA DG, chief settlement commissioner and others) after it was proved that the planning permission to Dream Housing Scheme was granted unlawfully.

“The construction of stadium without any approval was illegal. Likewise, the change of land use (construction of stadium at the land of a park, road and some residential area) was also unlawful,” ACE Lahore Director Muhammad Asghar Joiya told this reporter.

He said the ACE would not make any effort to arrest the senior officials (LDA DG, chief settlement commissioner and others) without proving the allegations after a thorough inquiry. He said though the ACE was not against anyone, it would not spare anyone involved in any irregularity, misappropriation and corruption.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2019