PESHAWAR: Skirting a question on the alleged anomalies in the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Tuesday, Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani kept pending the query for the new transport minister, who has yet to take the oath of his office.
Speaker Mushtaq Ghani was indecisive about the opposition’s demand to constitute a parliamentary committee to carry out a forensic audit of the over Rs66 billion project funded by the Asian Development Bank.
The BRT, the signature project of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government, was launched in Oct 2017 but it has yet to be completed.
The BRT question comes up in every session of the provincial assembly as the opposition members voice concern about the government’s tactics to avoid debate on the project.
The issue again came under discussion during the question hour in the assembly on Tuesday when Pakistan Peoples Party member Nighat Yasmin Orakzai asked the government to produce details of the deal between the National Accountability Bureau and Calson, one of the three BRT project contractors.
Orders inquiry against KMU VC over dual nationality
Through a written reply, the Peshawar Development Authority, the project’s executing agency, expressed ignorance about the deal.
“PDA is unaware about the deal,” the reply said.
The opposition members wondered how the PDA could contract a company to execute the bus project without knowing its previous record.
They alleged that the government was intentionally hiding facts about the project as it had provided the house with incomplete information.
PPP MPA Ahmad Kundi said the government should have verified performance security guarantee of any company before signing the work order.
“The department first verifies performance security of the company and then awards a contract,” he said.
Opposition Leader Akram Khan Durrani and MPAs Sardar Hussain Babak, Nighat Orakzai and Khushdil Khan advocate sought a ruling from the chair on the issue and demanded the constitution of a parliamentary committee to probe the project.
“Constitute a parliamentary committee today otherwise the opposition will boycott the proceedings,” Mr Durrani warned the speaker.
The opposition members stood up and warned that law and parliamentary affairs minister Sultan Mohammad Khan won’t be allowed to speak on the project.
They said the law minister did not know about the issue and therefore, the speaker should form a committee in that regard.
Earlier, the law minister said the BRT was the most-discussed project in Pakistan’s history and had been probed by all agencies and courts.
He said the Lahore High Court had set aside a case against the company with BRT contract, while its name was removed from the blacklist.
Speaker Mushtaq Ghani turned down the opposition’s demand and said the assembly’s rules of business didn’t allow him (chair) to constitute a parliamentary committee to probe the project.
Minister Sultan came to the speaker’s rescue and asked him to keep the question pending until the newly-appointed transport minister took oath of his office.
He said Shah Mohammad Khan had been notified as transport minister but he had yet to take oath.
“The minister-designate will be in position to give complete reply to the opposition,” he said.
The speaker while disposing of a calling attention notice through a ruling directed the higher education department to hold an inquiry against Vice-Chancellor of the Khyber Medical University, Peshawar, Prof Arshad Javed, for having dual nationality and hiding facts about his foreign citizenship from the government.
He also directed the department to stop the VC from performing official duties until the completion of the inquiry and produce a report in the house.
PPP MPA Nighat Orakzai through a calling attention notice said the VC also held British nationality and he intentionally hid it from the department.
The lawmaker pointed out that the Supreme Court had declared in a judgment that the Pakistanis with dual nationality could not retain important government positions as they should choose between a government job and a foreign nationality.
Adviser-designate to the chief minister on higher education Khaliqur Rehman Khattak replied that the inquiry report would be sent to the governor, who was also the chancellor of public sector universities in the province, while the department would also check the citizenship of staff members of other universities.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2020