ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court is expected to take up on June 13 the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) appeal which has challenged the Feb 14 Lahore High Court’s decision to release on bail former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and other accused facing a corruption case.
Earlier on May 15, the case was fixed before a three-judge bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed but the hearing had to be postponed in view of sudden ailment of senior counsel Ashtar Ausaf, who had appeared in the court to represent Mr Shahbaz. Now the bench is expected to resume the hearing on June 13.
NAB has already submitted a report to the Supreme Court claiming to have irrefutable evidence to link the former chief minister of Punjab, Fawad Hassan Fawad, former principal secretary to then prime minister, and Ahad Cheema, former director general of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), in Dec 2013 Ashiyana Housing Scheme
Last hearing of appeal related to Ashiyana Iqbal Housing Scheme scam was postponed due to sudden illness of ex-CM’s lawyer
According to charges levelled by NAB, the former CM had cancelled first successful bid for the contract for the housing scheme in bad faith due to which the successful bidder had to be paid Rs6 million as penalty. Later, Mr Shahbaz interfered in the second bidding process and M/s Paragon City (Pvt) Ltd was awarded the contract for 2,000 kanals of land for Rs4 billion and, by using government finances, the public sector project was turned into a public-private partnership only to benefit M/s Paragon City.
When the Ashiyana Iqbal Housing Scheme was launched, a piece of land measuring 3,100 kanals was allocated to the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) by the provincial government. It was adjacent to the land of the Paragon City.
In the first bidding process, according to the anti-graft watchdog, the lowest bidder — M/s Chaudhry A. Latif and Sons — was awarded the contract for the infrastructure development of the Ashiyana Iqbal, Lahore, on Jan 24, 2013.
The NAB report alleges that Mr Fawad, the then secretary implementation of the project, received Rs55m bribes in two tranches from Kamran Kiyani — the owner of M/s Conpro Services Pvt Ltd — the second lowest bidder — for which the money trail is available.
These amounts were received through banking channels in the names of Mr Fawad’s brother Waqar Hassan and Anjum Hassan, wife of Waqar Hassan.
Then the former chief minister ordered an inquiry into the bidding process and the committee said in its finding that the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder in accordance with the PPRA rules, but some procedural irregularities were committed during the process
However, Mr Fawad concealed the inquiry report and exerted pressure on the PLDC which forced the company to write a letter on March 15, 2013, stating that it was not feasible for it to further proceed with the project. This resulted in huge losses to the government, NAB alleged.
Subsequently, according to the bureau, the second bidding process for Ashiyana Iqbal was initiated on Dec 22, 2013 in which 50 contractors applied for pre-qualification.
On March 24, 2014, however, the second bidding process was again halted ‘illegally and unlawfully’ on the directives of the former chief minister though there was no complaint against the process.
This decision by Mr Shahbaz enabled the then LDA director general Ahad Cheema to allegedly obtain 100 kanals from the Paragon City.
In his final act of corruption and corrupt practice, the former chief minister held a meeting ‘without any agenda at his Model Town residence with only the chief executive officer of the PLDC and Ahad Cheema’. according to NAB.
In the meeting of Oct 21, 2014, Mr Cheema was directed to complete the project on public-private partnership basis without mentioning any reason for this change which was contrary to the feasibility report, according to NAB. Thus the PLDC was effectively placed under the LDA headed by Mr Cheema, the leading accused in the scam.
The report alleged that the decision taken in the Oct 21 meeting by the ex-CM led to an agreement between the LDA and the PLDC on Jan 27, 2015, enabling Mr Cheema to indulge in corruption by awarding the contact to the SPARCO Group, a hotchpotch set-up created by M/s Paragon City, which also provided the bid security of Rs50m, equity amount of Rs1.6bn and Rs250m bank guarantees through Nadeem Zia — a director of the Paragon City who is an absconder in the case.
The NAB report alleged that Mr Cheema received 100 kanals from Nadeem Zia and the former chief minister’s interference enabled the SPARCO Group to obtain 2,000 kanals in lieu of constructing 6,400 flats on 1,000 kanals. These 2,000 kanals were actually valued at Rs23bn but falsely shown to be worth Rs15.4 billion thus allowing M/s Paragon City to illegally gain Rs7.6bn.
Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2019