Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Tuesday that no evidence of the involvement of any minister or prime minister’s aide in the Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR) project scam had been found yet.
In a series of tweets a day after Zulfi Bukhari resigned as the special assistant to the prime minister over allegations of being one of the direct beneficiaries of the realignment of the RRR project, Fawad said an initial investigation by the Rawalpindi commissioner revealed the involvement of a former Rawalpindi commissioner and other officers in the scam.
However, he added, no proof of the involvement of any minister or prime minister’s aide had been found yet.
According to background information obtained by Dawn, the fact-finding report that the commissioner had prepared in 10 days said some officials of Rawalpindi division were involved in the scam and some housing societies were benefitted when the alignment of the road was changed.
The report accused Bukhari of giving benefits to his relatives, including Tauqeer Shah, former principal staff officer to ex-CM Shehbaz Sharif, in acquisition of their land in Sangjani.
According to Fawad, Prime Minister Imran Khan had been told the ring road was increased to 23 kilometres to benefit a housing society and consequently, the government had to release funds worth Rs20 billion to buy additional land.
When the controversy surfaced, the chief minister and the commissioner were instructed to probe the matter, the federal minister said in his tweets, adding that these details were confirmed in the initial investigation conducted by the commissioner and that the matter would be referred to the relevant departments for further investigation.
The minister further said it was only in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s regime that investigations were launched against political leaders from the government when allegations were levelled against them.
This was not the case when the PPP and the PML-N were in government, he claimed.
“This is the change of the system. Government officials should have the fear of accountability [and] not even the most powerful are above the law,” Fawad tweeted. “The prime minister’s policy on accountability is clear. All citizens are equal in the eyes of the law.”
Besides Bukhari, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and Prime Minister Imran Khan have also been accused of benefitting from the realignment of the RRR project.
Sarwar has rejected giving benefit to a private housing society while offering to quit politics if corruption charges against him in the mega scandal are proved. The federal minister for aviation told a presser on Monday that he would take up the matter in the federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday (today).
According to a senior official of the Punjab government, the RRR case has been referred to the National Accountability Bureau and the Anti-Corruption Department of Punjab for thorough investigations on the directive of Prime Minister Imran Khan after two separate fact-finding reports — one from Rawalpindi commissioner and the other from deputy commissioner and additional commissioner — landed at PM office.
According to a Dawn report, the principal approval of new alignment of the RRR and land acquisition for it in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Attock was given by Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Punjab government had released funds for land acquisition without formally approving the new alignment of the road.
The Rawalpindi Ring Road was originally designed from Rewat to Turnol via Murat on GT Road but after realignment, its termination point was changed to Islamabad-Lahore Motorway (M1). The project was conceived during the last PML-N regime in 2016 and later discussed with the Chinese government as well.