LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday sought replies from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on petitions filed by former director general of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) Ahad Cheema in three cases –Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme, LDA-City and assets beyond means.

Representing Mr Cheema, Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar argued before a two-judge bench that the petitioner had been behind the bars for the last 23 months and the NAB failed to file complete references against him.

He said no other employee of the LDA had been arrested or implicated in the case except the petitioner. He pointed out that former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, one of the co-suspects in the housing scheme case, had already been granted bail by the court.

The counsel argued that no suspect could be kept behind the bars for an indefinite period as a punishment until proven guilty. To establish mala fide of the NAB, he said the petitioner was first arrested in the housing scheme case and later arrested in another case three months after being sent on judicial remand by the trial court.

On being asked by the court about delay in filing the references, a prosecutor said he needed time to seek instructions from the authorities.

The bench headed by Justice Muhammad Tariq Abbasi adjourned further hearing till Jan 28 and directed the NAB prosecutor to submit detailed replies to the petitions.

The NAB had arrested Mr Cheema on Feb 21, 2018 on charges of misusing his authority with criminal intent and awarding Rs14 billion contracts of Ashiana-i-Iqbal housing scheme.

It alleged that he received illegal gratification in the form of 32 kanals of land from the owners of Paragon City Developers as a reward for awarding the contract of the housing scheme to its proxy firm -- Bismillah Engineering.

The NAB also alleged that Mr Cheema, being LDA director general accumulated assets in and outside the country beyond his known sources of income. It said the “illegal” assets possessed by Mr Cheema valued over Rs600 million. It alleged the bureaucrat also held benami properties in the names of his wife and other family members.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2020