HYDERABAD: The Sindh government suspended a day before the Naushahro Feroze deputy commissioner Tashfeen Alam, who was involved in suspicious transactions of over Rs2 billion funds meant for acquiring land for M6 Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway project, four days after the officer flew away to Azerbaijan.

The officer had reportedly gone abroad on Nov 19 and the provincial Services, General Administration and Coordination Department (SGA&CD) issued the suspension orders on Nov 22 while the federal Establishment Division was said to have suspended Alam for 120 days according to a notification that went viral on Wednesday.

Sources said that a charge-sheet was to be communicated to the officer as per Nov 22 notification after the government received report of the committee it had formed to scrutinize record on the alleged suspicious transactions of funds the National Highway Authority had given for land acquisition for M6 project.

The notification said the DC had disappeared from office and Shaheed Benazirabad divisional commissioner had reported to the SGA&CD that the officer had not attended his official duties for past four days.

The officer was involved in ‘suspicious transactions’ of over Rs2bn NHA funds for M6 land acquisition

The committee headed by Sajjad Hyder, director general of Labour Sindh; with Tariq Shah, director general of Training, Management and Research, and Umar Farooq Bullo, a senior officer, as members was probing the matter in Naushahro Feroze.

The sources said that the DC had appointed himself as Land Acquisition Officer (LAO), a task which was mostly assigned to assistant commissioner concerned, for acquisition of land. According to initial reports, 850 landowners were given payment in cash through bank after their lands were acquired under Land Acquisition Act 1894.

“Serious procedural violations are clear like payment in cash to landowners. According to NHA officials they have not received any copy of the award so far from the office concerned that indicates as if the award has perhaps not been passed here too like Matiari,” said an official. The payments for the land acquisition were being made in Naushahro Feroze since June 2022, said the sources.

“A lump sum amount was passed for the award (of payments) although it was always passed separately in favour of each khatedar,” said a source. The amount of over Rs2bn had been withdrawn on eight different dates since June 2022, said the source.

“The DC got himself notified as LAO for the entire district which was not needed,” said the source.

The bank officials informed the committee that biometrics of the khatedars were carried out in the bank.

The Benazirabad division commissioner had seized record on the land acquisition in Naushahro Feroze. The bank management told the committee that landowners had visited the bank along with their national identity cards to receive the cash payments,” said the official.

Matiari M6 inquiry

The Sindh government’s inquiry committee on motorway project visited Matiari district on Wednesday to probe and fix responsibility on officials and losses caused to government exchequer.

Sources disclosed that the committee members met the khatedars who received cash payments for land acquisition. “The khatedars have told the committee that they received cash payments at Matiari DC’s house instead of assistant commissioner’s office,” said a source privy to the committee.

The committee learnt that four private persons, Aslam, Rehmatullah, Illahi Bux and Asghar Jatoi, were involved in the scam. “Rehmatullah posed himself as NHA representative though he was a front-man of one the four persons.

Rehmatullah has some connection to Naushahro Feroze as well but he was not working for NHA,” said a source.

A close associate of Makhdoom family, Aslam Pirzado, had also reportedly obtained pre-arrest bail in connection with the case to which Makhdoom Jamiluzzaman had objected that Pirzado should not have obtained bail.

Over a dozen persons met the committee which learnt that Rs500m-Rs550m were paid to different landowners in Matiari.

“It is, however, not yet known where the remaining amount has gone because actually Rs2.14bn have been withdrawn from Sindh Bank’s Saeedabad branch for payment to khatedars,” said the source.

NHA begins separate probe

The NHA authorities have initiated their own probe to gather facts about the scandals. NHA’s general manager visited Naushahro Feroze on Wednesday while another official visited Matiari and met the government’s inquiry committee headed by Sindh home secretary Dr Saeed Magnejo.

The JIT headed by chairman Anti-Corruption Establishment Nawaz Shaikh had met former Matiari DC Adnan Rasheed in Jamshoro. He had shared some points with the committee which was optimistic to recover some amount withdrawn by the DC, said sources.

Adnan Rasheed’s remand expired on Wednesday and he would be produced in court on Thursday in Hyderabad. AC Mansoor Abbasi and Sindh Bank’s area manager, Tabish Shah who had obtained protective bail were required to surrender to trial court for obtaining pre-arrest bail.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2022

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