LAHORE: The Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) has launched an investigation into the Rawalpindi Ring Road scam to fix ‘criminal responsibility’ of those allegedly involved in it.
Interestingly, the ACE has launched a probe into the matter on the order of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, whom opposition PML-N accuses of also being involved in the scam and demands constitution of a judicial commission comprising apex court judges to investigate it.
This scam sees a rare engagement of two investigation agencies – one federal (the National Accountability Bureau) and the other provincial (the ACE). The NAB last week had announced launching investigation into the matter.
“It is rare for two investigation agencies to probe the same matter at the same time,” an official told Dawn.
Punjab CM himself accused by PML-N of being involved in the matter
“Usually the NAB, being apex investigation agency, can take over any probe from another body, like ACE, and this had happened in the past,” the official said.
Another official said neither the NAB interfered in the ACE working, nor the latter in the former’s, as the prime function of the both was to ensure justice.
“In the Rawalpindi Commissioner (Gulzar Shah’s) report on the ring road scam, it has been suggested that either the NAB or the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) should be engaged in the investigation into the matter. However, the Buzdar administration, on the order of Prime Minister Imran Khan, tasked the ACE with a parallel probe to have a clearer picture,” he said and cited two other cases in which the FIA and NAB held separate probes.
“In the sugar and the medical colleges scams both the NAB and the FIA are holding separate investigations,” the official said.
“The ACE has begun a probe into the Rawalpindi Ring Road scam on the direction of the chief minister. ACE Director General Gohar Nafees has formed an inquiry team comprising legal, technical and financial experts to thoroughly investigate the matter,” said an ACE spokesperson on Monday.
According to a senior official, the government had decided to engage the ACE to fix ‘criminal responsibility’ in the scam so that legal action could be taken against those involved in it. He said the ACE would look into the matters of the beneficiary housing societies and the government officials in the light of the Rawalpindi commissioner’s report.
The commissioner’s report had named some private housing societies, which were located far away from the original ring road plan, but were benefited through the realignment. It says that both ex-commissioner retired Capt Mehmood and former land acquisition commissioner Waseem Tabish were suspended from service for wrongly paying Rs2.3 billion in compensation for the land acquired in Attock area.
Following the controversy over the project, Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari (Zulfi Bukhari) resigned as special assistant to the prime minister. However, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar rejected allegations of giving benefit to a private housing society, while offering to quit politics “if corruption charges against him (in the mega scandal) proved”.
The PML-N, on the other hand, has alleged that Rs40 billion corruption has been committed in the ring road project.
“The Imran Khan government can only prove its impartiality if an independent inquiry by the Supreme Court judges is launched into the scam,” demands the party.
According to PML-N Punjab Information Secretary MPA Azma Bokhari, both PM Khan and CM Buzdar are directly involved in the scam, daring the NAB chairman to lay hands on all those involved in it.
Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2021