RAWALPINDI: Six officers of the district administrations of Rawalpindi and Attock have been removed from their posts in connection with changes made to the alignment of the proposed Ring Road Project.
The decision was taken by the Punjab government after a fact-finding committee submitted its report to the chief secretary.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken notice of the changes to the alignment of the Ring Road project, which not only increased the cost of the project by Rs25 billion but also benefited some private housing societies.
After transferring former commissioner retired Capt Mohammad Mehmood, Chief Secretary Jawwad Rafique Malik formed the fact-finding committee last month. The committee comprised Rawalpindi Commissioner Syed Gulzar Hussain Shah, Additional Commissioner Coordination Jahangir Ahmed and Deputy Commissioner retired Capt Anwarul Haq.
Decision taken after fact-finding committee submitted report to chief secretary
The committee completed its report and submitted it to the chief secretary on May 10. After receiving the report, the provincial government ordered transfer of six officers of Rawalpindi and Attock.
DC Rawalpindi Anwarul Haq, Deputy Commissioner Attock Ali Annan Qamar and Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) retired Capt Shoaib Ali were removed from their posts and directed to report to the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD).
Rawalpindi Assistant Commissioner Saddar Ghulam Abbas and Fatehjang Assistant Commissioner Mohammad Azeem Shaukat Awan have also been asked to report to the S&GAD.
Deputy Commissioner Chakwal Bilal Hashim got the additional charge of Rawalpindi while Additional Deputy Commissioner Revenue Attock Sheheryar Arif Khan was entrusted with the additional charge of Attock DC.
A senior official said a formal inquiry would be started after Eidul Fitr as the chief secretary had first formed the fact-finding committee to see whether allegations submitted to the prime minister were valid or not.
He said basically it was not the issue of officials’ involvement but two groups in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) were struggling against each other due to which the project was halted.
It was alleged that the length of the road was increased to give way to housing societies patronised by some local politicians and the original map of the Ring Road was changed and more new roads were added to it.
However, sources said, there were no changes in the project as Punjab Public Private Authority under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had approved the alignment.
On the other hand, another official of the district administration said some changes were made in the original route approved by the Punjab government. He said a 100-year-old banyan tree in Rawat was used to justify the rerouting of the Ring Road which was followed by saving of an elected public representative’s land from the route.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Prime Minster Imran Khan has directed “fast track progress on most suitable, merit based, rent-seeking free alignment for the Rawalpindi Ring Road.”
Fast track consultations have already commenced to create a lawful infrastructure project that fulfills the promise of de-congesting the Rawalpindi city area, he added.
He said the fact-finding committee was constituted to inquire into illegalities in the change to the alignment of the road.
The minister said the committee found that the 65-km-long alignment advertised for bidding was illegally crafted by Mohammad Mahmood, former commissioner Rawalpindi, and his accomplices with the unlawful help of consultants.
“Ex-commissioner Mr Mohammad Mahmood, ex LAC Waseem Ali Tabish, Ex DD PMU Mr Abdullah committed incurable illegalities, committed deceit and deception, issued orders without having due authority and committed abuse of public funds to benefit the rent-seeking syndicate including themselves. Their matter is being referred to NAB and E&D proceedings including their suspensions are being initiated,” said the minister.
He also said NAB was being asked to probe Rs2.3 billion spent unlawfully by the ex-commissioner on illegal land acquisition for building the Ring Road centric hype to boost sales of real estate connected with him and with powerful public officeholders. Some housing societies are being probed for being benami fronts of powerful people.
“The former commissioner in sheer violation of laws and rules worked to create rent seeking benefit for himself as well as for, inter alia, NOVA City, Capital Smart City, New Airport City/Al Asif Housing, TOP City, SAS Developers, Blue World and Islamabad Capital Housing Society. It has been established that addition of Moorat-Attock loop and Paswaal zigzag were made to purely benefit private interests with the backing of influential public officeholders, past and present and influential bureaucrats.”
The Punjab and federal governments were kept in the dark about the facts and every pointation made by highest fora for presenting the alignment to the chief minister were willfully and repeatedly ignored. A forensic audit of such societies by FIA is being ordered for the sales beyond approved lands as well as online sales without approval.
“Now the bidding process stands cancelled. Since the alignment emerged illegally, no one can ever lawfully regularise it. So this alignment shall never be taken up again for the incurable illegalities underpinning its emergence and also because of the reasons given at para vii of this brief,” he added.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021