ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Monday provided copies of the National Accountability Bureau’s reference against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal and others in Narowal Sports City scandal for their indictment next week.

When Judge Syed Asghar Ali resumed the proceedings, Mr Iqbal, former director general of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera and other suspects were present in the court.

According to the NAB reference, Mr Iqbal and others misused their authority, “illegally enhancing the scope of project from Rs34.75 million to Rs3 billion”. The project was conceived in 1999 on Mr Iqbal’s directives “without any feasibility study”, the anti-graft watchdog alleged.

Mr Iqbal was arrested by NAB on Dec 23 last year. He remained in custody for over two months. The Islamabad High Court had on Feb 25 this year granted him bail.

Nine months on, NAB filed the Narowal Sports City reference against Mr Iqbal and other suspects nearly two weeks ago.

The accountability court distributed copies of the reference among the suspects and adjourned the further proceeding till Dec 7 when it would frame charges against them.

The Central Development Working Party (CDWP), headed by Mr Iqbal, had initially approved the Narowal project at a cost of Rs34.74m in 1999. The same year on his “illegal” directive to the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the National Engineering Service of Pakistan, the project’s scope was enhanced to Rs97.52m. Mr Iqbal identified the land for the project and provided specific Khasra (plot) Nos. to the PSB to acquire the land, but the PSB on the directives of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms shelved the project in 1999 on the ground that it was not economic necessity at the time.

Again launched in 2009, the project was approved at a cost of Rs732m, but soon after the passage of 18th Amendment, the project was devolved to the Punjab government in 2011.

According to NAB, when Mr Iqbal took over the charge of minister for planning and development in 2013, he illegally directed officials of his ministry to include the Narowal project in the PSDP 2013-14, though it was not included in the draft PSDP 2013-14 as it was a devolved project and was also reflected in Annual Development Programme 2013-14 of the Punjab government.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2020

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