BANNU: The opposition members of a parliamentary committee formed to probe the alleged corruption in the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation project visited several plantation sites here and recorded statements of the forest employees and daily wagers working under the project.

The members led by opposition leader in KP Assembly Akram Khan Durrani examined saplings planted in Nali Chak, Sadikhel, Kasho Pul and Adhami areas.

They included MPAs Khushdil Khan, Sardar Yousaf, Sher Azam Khan Wazir, Lutfur Rehman, Aurangzeb Khan Nalotha, Shagufta and Rehana.

No treasury member was among visitors.

The 20-member panel was formed by the provincial assembly’s speaker to probe the alleged corruption in the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation project in the wake of repeated protests by the opposition members in the house.

The committee has 11 members from the treasury and nine from the opposition.

Opposition leader Akram Durrani told reporters that the Billion Tree Tsunami project’s workers had lodged protest with the committee about low wages.

He said the government had agreed to pay workers Rs15,000 every month and additional Rs50 for looking after a single plant but the latter were being paid from Rs6,000 to Rs8,000 a monthly basis in addition of Rs5 per plant.

Mr Durrani alleged that the relevant officials drew a huge sum of amount.

He said the government claimed that it would plant 1.2 billion saplings in Bannu but only 20 million of them were planted.

The opposition leader said Rs6 billion had been withdrawn from the Rs12 billion funds in the name of staff wages though meagre payments were being made to employees in violation of the agreement.

“This affair is corruption,” he said.

Mr Durrani alleged that the government had paid Rs6-Rs9 for a sapling, which was sold on the market for Re1.

He alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan had forced the forestry department to plant saplings in the areas not recommended by the project’s feasibility report and thus, wasting the taxpayers’ money.

The opposition leader alleged that the authorities planted cardamom saplings though the plantation of sheesham, kekar and toot was approved for the project.

He rejected as fraud the government’s claim to throw plant seeds in several areas by helicopter.

Mr Durrani said the PTI government had committed massive corruption in three mega projects, including the Billion Tree Tsunami, Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit, and education reforms.

He said the opposition would continued exposing that corruption in and out of the assembly.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2019

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