Rawalpindi Ring Road project shouldn't be dropped: Ghulam Sarwar

Published May 22, 2021
Federal Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan called on the Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR) project to be launched this year, adding that it was a project of "national importance" and a flagship project for the PTI and shouldn't be dropped. — DawnNewsTV
Federal Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan called on the Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR) project to be launched this year, adding that it was a project of "national importance" and a flagship project for the PTI and shouldn't be dropped. — DawnNewsTV

Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan on Saturday said the Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR) project should be launched this year as it held "national importance" and it was a flagship project of the ruling PTI which shouldn't be dropped.

Speaking to the media in Rawalpindi, the aviation minister said: "I had the same demand yesterday and today, that the project shouldn't be dropped. This Ring Road is a project of national importance."

Addressing the current investigations on the project, he said he had called on the cabinet and the prime minister to get an inquiry carried out by the relevant institutions and agencies such as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal investigation Agency and urged "action against whoever is found involved in [the scam]."

The prime minister had recently ordered an inquiry into the changes in the alignment of the RRR project, which had not only increased the cost of the project by Rs25 billion but also allegedly benefited some private housing societies.

The aviation minister said he was not calling for the project to be launched according to the alleged changes to its alignment, which have stirred controversy, but "whatever is decided by the investigating institutions".

"Whatever alignment you have to do, the project should be started this year since this is a project of national importance. It's a flagship project of the PTI and is particularly important for the people of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

"We will not allow it to fall prey to any conspiracy," he said, reiterating his call for the project to be started even if the changes to its alignment were cancelled or even if investigations continued.

He said it was the task of those responsible for the project to determine the feasibility of any alignment but said "there should be a time limit to it. The alignment should be finalised within two to three months and it should be re-tendered and inaugurated this year."

Khan said he had told the same to the prime minister and claimed: "We will inaugurate it this year and have the prime minister and the chief minister do its groundbreaking ceremony.

"All these conspiracies, discussions in the media and attempts of the opposition to turn it into a scandal; there will be no scandal and this project of national importance will be started and will reach completion."

The inquiry

According to a senior official of the Punjab government, the RRR case was referred to NAB 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 the Rawalpindi commissioner and the other from the deputy commissioner and additional commissioner — had landed in his office.

These reports suggest the alignment plan of the road was increased to 23 kilometres to benefit private housing societies and consequently, the government had to release funds worth Rs20 billion to buy additional land.

The controversy over the project also saw the resignation of Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis, over allegations that he was among the beneficiaries of the road's changed alignment.

Opposition parties claim Sarwar Khan also benefitted from the road's realignment as his lands were near the project.

However, the aviation minister said if corruption charges against him were proved, he would quit politics and denied that he or his family had any links with the housing societies from which the government had acquired land for the project.

'I am not running away from inquiry'

During today's presser, Khan said he had presented himself before the authorities and reiterated that neither he nor his family had any relation to the realignment, adding that he did not have any involvement in the purchase of land near the project.

"I want to repeat that we don't have any relation with its alignment or any financial interests associated with societies nor is any of our land part of the Ring Road project.

"I am not running away from an inquiry. Probe me, my family [and] my children. If any of us are found responsible for any irregularity then take action," Khan said.

He added that the prime minister had told him that his name wasn't even in the reports submitted to him and thus there was no need for his previous press conference on the issue.

"I said my name is indeed not in the report but this discussion is part of media and social media and I am a public representative and I have to clear myself."

'No groups in the PTI'

The aviation minister also addressed reports of divisions within the PTI and claimed: "There is no grouping in the PTI."

He said there could be grievances of some people in the party against some officials but these were "small differences" like those amongst family members.

As for the investigations against estranged PTI leader Jahangir Khan Tareen, Khan said many people had faced inquiries and sitting ministers had been sent to jail.

"Everyone will have to go through the process of accountability and it will be across the board. There will be no injustice with anyone and no one will be politically victimised," he stressed.

"PTI is one. These are all people of PTI and they are standing with it. There is no forward bloc or grouping in PTI."

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