RAWALPINDI: Commissioner Syed Gulzar Hussain Shah on Wednesday cancelled the land acquisition in Rawalpindi and Attock for the construction of Rawalpindi Ring Road project and asked the district administration to form teams for recovery of Rs2.45 billion paid to the landowners.
The corruption allegation in the Ring Road project led to cancellation of land acquisition.
An inquiry at the highest level in the provincial government revealed that changes had been made to the actual plan of the Ring Road to create new road infrastructures allegedly aimed at benefiting some private housing societies, which increased the cost of the project by Rs25 billion.
Orders recovery of over Rs2bn paid to landowners
When the controversy deepened, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari resigned from his position while Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan rejected the corruption charges and offered to quit politics if allegations against him were proved.
After restoring the original alignment from Rawat to Thallian near motorway, the Punjab government made new PC-I of the project and decided to construct it under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) instead of Public-Private Partnership. The PC-I was sent to the Punjab Planning and Development Board for approval.
The board, however, returned the PC-I with the direction to first decide the mode of construction, as under the PSDP the funding will be borne by the provincial government.
On the other hand, the Punjab audit team pointed out that Rs2.4 billion had been distributed among the landowners for acquiring the land for the project.
In his order, Commissioner Gulzar Hussain Shah, said that under Section 48(1) of Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the amount paid to the landowners for acquisition of land undertaken along the entire length of the illegally advertised alignment falling in Rawalpindi and Attock districts would be recovered.
The district collector shall determine the amount of compensation to be given to the owner for the damage in consequence of the notice or of any proceeding.
A senior official of administration told Dawn that the commissioner had asked the administration to start the work to recover the money from landowners and formed teams in this regard.
He said the Rawalpindi Development Authority had been asked to provide the payment record to the administration. He said after the scam, the record was sealed to avoid tampering with the figures.
“But for recovering the amount the Punjab Board of Revenue should first de-notify the land acquisition as it has already notified in the gazette,” he said.
He said it was a long process and there were chances that if the administration moved to get back the money the landowners would move courts.
“Most people had already utilised the money on purchase of new cars or plots,” he said.
Payment of Rs2.43 billion had been made for 11,300 kanals of land, including 6,600 kanals in Rawalpindi and 4,700 kanals in Attock.
“The amount was made to 1,100 landowners in Rawalpindi and 500 in Attock,” said a senior official of the administration.
When contacted, Deputy Commissioner Aamir Aqiq Khan admitted that the district administration got the orders and the process to get back the money had been started.
He said the relevant assistant commissioner would initiate the process to recover the money from the landowners with the assistance of revenue department teams.
Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2021