Rawalpindi Ring Road project: Ex-commissioner, other officials to face the music over fraud: Firdous
LAHORE: The Sharif family has blatantly plundered public resources in the past and former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif embezzled Punjab’s development funds along with his henchmen, alleged Special Assistant to the Chief Minister (SACM) on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan.
Talking to the media at the Directorate General Public Relations here on Tuesday, Dr Awan claimed Prime Minister Imran Khan had exposed the corruption and plunder of the Sharif family. However, she regretted, the remnants of that corrupt legacy are still showing loyalty to their previous masters in the civil service, politics and other walks of life.
She said the Rawalpindi Ring Road project had been launched to reduce traffic load in public and national interest, but efforts were made to use it for personal benefits. The alignment of the 65-kilometre-long Ring Road was illegally altered and the pre-determined route was changed when the expression of interest had already been advertised. Former Rawalpindi commissioner Muhammad Mehmood and his associates illegally prepared the alignment plan of the road in connivance with the consultant, she alleged.
Dr Awan said the former commissioner, former land acquisition collector Wasim Ali Tabish and former project management unit deputy director Abdullah indulged in illegal activities and committed fraud. They issued directions without any authority as a result of which the national exchequer was misused to benefit a few, she explained.
The SACM said their case was being forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and disciplinary action, including suspension from service, has been initiated. She said the NAB would inquire into the illegal expenditure of Rs2.3 billion by former commissioner Mehmood to acquire land, adding that inquiries were also being held into some residential schemes for being benami fronts of powerful people.
Dr Awan further said that Mehmood and his associates had been suspended from service as the former commissioner allegedly broke the rules and received financial benefits for himself as well as worked to promote the interests of different residential schemes, including Nova City, Capital Smart City, New Airport City/Al-Asif Housing, Top City, SAS Developers, Blue World and Islamabad Capital Housing.
She regretted that the Punjab and federal governments were kept in the dark about the facts in this regard and the instructions to present this alignment to the chief minister were deliberately ignored. The project was also illegally advertised on March 1. She said the Federal Investigation Agency was being directed to conduct a forensic audit of such residential schemes to identify the sale of plots in excess to the approved land and illegal online sales.
The special assistant said some engineering firms that had purchased Request for Proposal documents had made huge investments in properties along the illegal portions of the Ring Road. The bidding process for the project had now been canceled.
She said after Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice, the corruption of this group had been exposed as it could have incurred a loss of at least Rs10 billion to the national kitty. This group tried to frustrate the PM’s vision of protecting precious land and multi-storey building construction, she said.
The special assistant said Saudi Arabia had always stood firmly with Pakistan. Today, the aid received for the poor was being used to spread disinformation by vested interests. Saudi aid had been given to Pakistan in every tenure, but now the aid meant for the needy was being politicised, she lamented.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021