LAHORE: In a significant development, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has summoned Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Aug 12 for allegedly receiving Rs50 million in bribe to force the Excise and Taxation Department to issue a liquor licence to a hotel in violation of the law.
The ‘beleaguered’ Buzdar recently secured complete support from Prime Minister Imran Khan to continue as the chief executive of Punjab amid speculation that he (the PM) is under pressure from different quarters for his ‘complete failure’ to govern the most populated province of the country.
NAB on Thursday issued a call up notice to CM Buzdar, asking him to appear before a combined investigation team on Aug 12 at its Thokar Niazbaig provincial headquarters. He has been asked to bring relevant record regarding approval of the liquor licence to a hotel in violation of the rules/law.
According to sources, the under-construction hotel near Lahore airport had applied to the Excise and Taxation Department for obtaining L-2 liquor licence without first obtaining registration and licence from the Department of Tourist Services, Punjab, under the Pakistan Hotels and Restaurant Act 1976 and the Rules 1977 with a 4/5 star rating.
They said the condition of 4/5 star rating was essential for obtaining L-2 liquor licence after the chief minister in 2009 approved a policy which restricted grant of L-2 liquor licence only to hotels having 4/5 star rating.
The Excise and Taxation Department granted licence to the hotel in question in 2019 in violation of the CM Policy 2009 and without registration of the hotel from the Department of Tourist Services Punjab, they said.
“The most glaring aspect of this violation is that the Excise and Taxation Department had referred the matter to CM Buzdar terming the approval against the CM Policy 2009 but it (department) was ordered (by the CM office) to issue the licence to the hotel in question whose owner happens to be an influential person,” a source told Dawn.
“Despite having the knowledge about the sensitivity of the matter, as highlighted by the department concerned time and again, the chief minister office willfully failed to exercise lawful authority to prevent the issuance of illegal L-2 licence to the hotel,” he said and also disclosed that a sum of Rs50million had been given to a “relative of Buzdar” to get this job done.
The news about NAB’s summoning Buzdar in a corruption case has generated `excitement’ among the PTI ranks that were earlier involved in the campaign to oust him.
The NAB’s action against a high profile PTI man comes after the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Paragon Housing case in which it observed that “the bureau seems reluctant in proceeding against people on one side of the political divide even in respect of financial scams of massive proportion.”
Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2020