MUZAFFARGARH: Twelve senior officials of the Punjab Housing and Town Planning Agency faced strict disciplinary action on Tuesday for their failure to safeguard government properties in the Phata sub-region of Multan in a case titled Shafiqur Rehman versus Phata and others.

According to documents, land grabbers tried to grab costly government land in Gulshan Market in New Multan in 2016. The department filed a suit against Shafiqur Rehman in a civil court and during the next five years, the officials concerned did not pursue the case. Instead, they remained oblivious to the case, withdrew wakalatnama, concealed court documents and never fought the case in the civil court.

The officials did not hire a lawyer to fight the case, and instead withdrew the wakalatnama of a private counsel without the approval of senior officials. Their inefficiency resulted in a case decided in favour of the land grabber on Dec 17, 2021, and order taking over the residence of the Phata deputy director at Gulshan Market.

In 2018, a revenue department report and the deputy commissioner’s office report, which clearly showed the Phata ownership of the land, was issued but these officials did not submit the report to court.

In 2021, the Housing Urban Development and Public Health Engineering secretary of South Punjab ordered a probe into the matter and appointed MDA Director-General Kaiser Saleem as the committed head. He concludes that 12 Phata officials were involved in the scam as they let the court decide in the favour of the other party.

On his recommendations, three officials were dismissed from service. Three others were punished with a reduction of five lower stages; two officials’ promotion was withheld for five years; one official was censured; two officials were ordered compulsory retirement and four others were punished with a cut of 50 per cent of their pension.

Those who faced action are Tahir Javed, deputy director, now posted as director in Multan; Tariq Javed, deputy director and now posted in Bhakkar; Shafiqur Rehman, deputy director, and now posted in Bahawalpur; Muhammad Younis Mughal, deputy director, retired on Jan 27, 2021; Azhar Saeed Awan, deputy director, now posted in Faisalabad; Muhammad Shafi, deputy director; Khalid Mehmood, assistant director; Muhammad Rizwan, retired assistant director; Khalid Mehmood, assistant director; Masood Ahmed Shahid, housing management officer; Mumtaz Akhtar, accounts clerk; Siddique Ahmed Mughal, tracer, and Ahsan Karim, junior clerk.

South Punjab Housing Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Secretary Javed Akhtar said the authority provided full opportunity to the officials and issued personal hearing notices to them. He said he faced political pressure, but he dealt with the case on merit.

He said land grabbers tried to grab the Phata land and the department moved court in 2016, and these officials went into oblivion regarding the fate of the suit and caused a huge loss to the government. He said he found no proper mechanism to pursue cases in a court of law to safeguard government interest/ property.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2022

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