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Apex court snub: ACE ‘shy of’ further action on FIRs against LDA officers

Updated February 22, 2019

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The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) may avoid further proceeding on the FIRs lodged against the Lahore Development Authority officials following recent directions by the Supreme Court. ─ File photo
The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) may avoid further proceeding on the FIRs lodged against the Lahore Development Authority officials following recent directions by the Supreme Court. ─ File photo

LAHORE: The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) may avoid further proceeding on the FIRs lodged against the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) officials following recent directions by the Supreme Court.

According to official sources, the ACE may also not probe further into the Khokhar Palace case since it was also related with the approval of maps accorded by the LDA and the respective town administration of the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation.

“The apex court, on Wednesday, reprimanded the senior officials of the ACE and Punjab government over registration of two FIRs in as many cases of alleged irregularities and wrongdoings on the part of LDA officials. Similarly, the court also ordered the ACE to not harass the LDA director general, besides issuing directions to the advocate general to rectify these issues. So we think that we may be unable to go ahead in this regard,” a senior ACE official explained while talking to Dawn.

At present there are four FIRs registered against as many as 35 LDA officers, including the additional director general (housing), chief town planner (CTP), chief metropolitan planner (CMP) and two directors (town planning). Of there four, two were lodged a few days ago against the officials in a case of unlawful construction of a stadium at Jubilee Town and accord of planning permission to a housing scheme on Raiwind Road. Both FIRs also mention that the role of the LDA DG, chief settlement commissioner and others will be determined after investigation. Similarly, another FIR is against 17 officers for their alleged involvement in illegal construction of commercial buildings in various parts of the city and one is against the CTP and some others for not providing relevant record in Khokhar Palace case.

“We may also stop the ongoing judicial action in Khokhar Palace case since it too is linked with the LDA. We are just afraid of the court, as the respondents may again accuse us of harassment before the apex court if we continue investigating these cases,” the official said.

Similarly, he said, the inquiries against the Metropolitan Corporation Lahore (MCL) would also be stopped, as the mayor was also a party against ACE in the court. He said the ACE field formations in Lahore had also stopped receiving public complaints against the LDA and MCL since they believed that their action (inquiries, registration of cases/FIRs may be considered harassment. And this might be taken by the apex court as contempt, he added.

On the other hand, a source in the LDA said that following the court directions, the law officers had started working on rectifying the faults in ACE action that annoyed the court on Wednesday.

“We are preparing our replies in response to the FIRs registered against several LDA officers. We will soon submit these to the law officers who would then prepare their written reply to be submitted the court in a hearing scheduled for Feb 27,” he said.

Meanwhile, the LDA officers continued to avoid attending their offices since registration of cases against them. “For the last three days, the LDA Johar Town Complex is also empty since most officers from town planning, metropolitan planning, urban development, housing etc are not coming to their offices due to fear of ACE raids. They also didn’t attend the office on Thursday, despite the fact the apex court snub to the senior ACE and Punjab government officials for harassing the LDA officers,” said the official.

“Since the fear still persists, the panicked officials may not attend the offices for some more days. But, I think the situation would improve after the court issues its interim orders of Feb 20 and the orders are likely to issued on Feb 27,” he believed.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2019