HYDERABAD: Accountability court Judge Inam Ali Kalhoro on Monday awarded varying jail terms and fines to a former district forest officer, his son, two other officers and two private persons in a case of misappropriation of Rs40.098 million public money meant for a project titled “habitat restoration and promotion of eco-tourism through development of wildlife safari in Boharki forest Badin”.

The judge court convicted Mohammad Anwar Baloch (former DFO of Tando Mohammad Khan), his son Nasrullah Anwar (contractor), Irshad Ali Jessar (serving forest officer), Mohammad Waqas Shaikh (fake range forest officer) and his brothers Mohammad Sohail Shaikh (then range forest officer) and Mohammad Arsalan Shaikh (a private person) under section 10 of National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

The reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) stated that the scheme titled “habitat restoration and promotion of eco-tourism through development of wildlife safari in Boharki forest Badin” was approved with Rs155m cost which was later revised upwards to Rs250m but the funds released for the scheme were misappropriated and embezzled by the accused.

NAB investigators found that 30 civil works were part of the scheme and 12 firms participated in the bidding process of which four were registered in the name of the accused Nasrullah Anwar, son of Anwar Baloch and one was owned by Khadim Hussain.

As many as 19 contracts were awarded to two accused Nasrullah Anwar and Khadim Hussain and Irshad Ali Jessar, Waqas Shaikh, Sohail Shaikh and Arsalan Shaikh embezzled a total of Rs6.682m in connivance with each other, said NAB.

The reference concluded that it had been established that the accused misappropriated funds released for the establishment of wildlife safari park at Boharki forest in Badin in connivance with each other and caused heavy loss of Rs40.098m to public exchequer.

Irshad Ali, Waqas, Sohail and Arsalan, who were on bail and present in the court were taken into custody and sent to Nara prison to serve the sentence while non-bailable warrants were issued for Anwar Baloch and his son Nasrullah Anwar who were absent from the final hearing.

Anwar Baloch and Nasrullah Anwar have been sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for five years and payment of Rs4m fine each. The father and son would cease to hold public office and stand disqualified for a period of 10 years, said the verdict.

Irshad Ali Jessar will suffer one year rigorous imprisonment and pay Rs5m fine. Waqas Shaikh and Sohail Shaikh have been sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for five years each and pay fine of Rs500,000. Arsalan Shaikh will have to undergo rigorous imprisonment for two years and pay a fine of Rs2m. Waqas, Sohail and Arsalan are all brothers.

Another suspect in the case Ghulam Hyder Chandio, the then DFO, had died during the trial.

The judgment said that in case of default on payment of fine, the amount would be recovered as arrears of land revenue from the convicts.

The judge directed Nara prison superintendent to shift Irshad Ali to hospital for treatment and submit compliance report to the court on March 3.

The court acquitted Riaz Ahmed Waggan (conservator of wildlife department), Jan Mohammad Soomro (district forest officer), Saeed Akhtar Baloch (former conservator of wildlife), Niaz Ahmed Khaskheli, Khadim Hussain (contractor) and Kashif Raza (former consultant).

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2021

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