Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said on Monday that provincial authorities would be approaching the federal government for the issuance of a red warrant for suspended Naushahro Feroze Deputy Commissioner (DC) Tashfeen Alam over his alleged involvement in the Hyderabad-Sukkur M6 land scam case.
The red warrant is an international notice sent to the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) seeking the arrest and extradition of an individual.
Alam, among several others, has been accused of being involved in suspicious transactions of over Rs2 billion meant for acquiring land for M6 Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway project.
He reportedly fled to Azerbaijan on November 19. The Sindh General Administration and Coordination Department issued his suspension orders on November 22 while the federal Establishment Division suspended Alam for 120 days.
“The anti-corruption department has registered a case pertaining to the scam in Nausharo Feroze and his (Alam) name is included in the first information report (FIR),” Wahab said today while addressing a press conference in Karachi.
“Since the FIR is based on a comprehensive fact-finding report, it has been decided that the Anti-Corruption Department (ACE) will approach the federal government so that a red warrant for the former deputy commissioner is issued via Interpol,” he added.
This, he continued, was decided so that Alam could be brought back to the country and action could taken against him according to the law for the recovery of the embezzled amount.
“To this end, the Sindh government is in regular contact with the National Highway Authority (NHA), the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).”
Wahab further said Alam was “removed” as the Naushahro Feroze DC soon after allegations in the case had surfaced against him and a report, submitted by a joint investigation team three days ago, showed there was some truth behind the allegations.
Earlier in the press conference, he recalled that the matter had shot into the spotlight last month when reports regarding alleged irregularities in the M6 motorway project surfaced on social media on November 13.
“Immediately after the reports, the Sindh chief minister had directed the provincial chief secretary to conduct a fact-finding inquiry into the matter to determine whether there was any truth to the allegations.
“The fact-finding committee confirmed in its initial report that there was evidence of irregularities and [recommended] a proper inquiry into the matter, following which a joint investigation team (JIT), headed by the provincial home secretary, was formed,” Wahab said.
While the JIT probed the matter, the Sindh government directed that motorway funds in six districts — Matiari, Khairpur, Shaheed Benazirabad, Naushahro Feroze, Sukkur and Hyderabad — should be frozen and no payments were to be made so as not to cause any further loss to the exchequer, he added.
The provincial government spokesperson said the JIT submitted its report to the Sindh government on November 17 which highlighted “glaring irregularities”.
An FIR was then registered in Matiari and the district’s DC and relevant assistant commissioner (AC) were arrested, he said, adding that some employees of Sindh Bank, from where the M6 project’s funds were withdrawn, had also been taken into custody.
“Giving the scale, the sole involvement of the AC and DC is not possible and Sindh Bank employees and officers were also directly or indirectly involved in the case,” he explained.
Moreover, he continued, the inquiry conducted so far indicated the involvement of private persons in the case as well.
Wahab said the Sindh government’s timely action had led to the recovery of Rs420m so far.
Committee’s findings against Alam
Earlier, a Dawn report, citing sources, said the committee formed to scrutinise records on the alleged suspicious transactions of M6 motorway project funds found that Alam had appointed himself as the Land Acquisition Officer (LAO), a task which was mostly assigned to assistant commissioner concerned, for the acquisition of the project’s land.
According to initial reports, 850 landowners were given payment in cash through bank after their lands were acquired under Land Acquisition Act 1894, the sources added.
“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, which indicates as if the award has perhaps not been passed here too like Matiari,” an official told Dawn, adding that payments for the land acquisition were being made in Naushahro Feroze since June 2022.
“A lump sum amount was passed for the award (of payments), although it was always passed separately in favour of each khatedar,” said another source. The amount of over Rs2bn had been withdrawn on eight different dates since June 2022, the source said, adding that Alam “got himself notified as LAO for the entire district which was not needed”.
Bank officials reportedly 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, an official said, adding that the bank management told the committee that landowners had visited the bank along with their national identity cards to receive the cash payments.