HYDERABAD: The National Highway Authority (NHA) has deposited entire amount of over Rs15 billion with Sindh government for acquiring land for the Hyderabad-Sukkur section of the 306km M6 project, the last link in Rs307bn Peshawar-Karachi Mot-orway project, and prime minister is scheduled to perform its groundbreaking tentatively on Dec 9, according to sources.

In Matiari and Naushahro Feroze districts, among seven districts of the province through which the motorway wan to pass, the local administrative officials embezzled NHA’s funds but were caught soon afterwards.

“We do not have any liability as far as land acquisition cost is concerned. We will get possession of the land once final award has been passed in the districts. The land acquisition process has reached an advanced stage after having gone through all basic stages of Land Acquisition Award,” said NHA general manager for M6, Parkash Lohano.

The sources disclosed to Dawn that except Naushahro Feroze whose deputy commissioner Tashfeen Alam Khan had fled the country after embezzling NHA funds, a final award under section 11 of LAA 1894 was yet to be passed in the remaining six districts.

PM likely to be the chief guest at the ceremony

Alam passed the award under section 11 of LAA after appointing himself as land acquisition officer and NHA officials told Federal Investigation Agency they were not aware of the passage of the award. “NHA being acquiring agency has right to question price of land as determined by LAO,” he said.

In Jamshoro, mostly state land would be acquired for M6 thus no need for payment of compensation, said the sources, adding that the Sindh government was seeking issuance of red warrant for his arrest.

In Matiari, Rs2.30bn were withdrawn from Sindh Bank by then assistant commissioner Mansoor Abbasi and bank’s area manager Tabish Shah. Both DCs were officers of Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS) cadre.

The Sindh government’s committee had submitted its findings in the Matiari case while until recently the committee was finalising its report on Naushahro Feroze in which FIA had already lodged a formal case on a complaint lodged by Parkash Lohano. Three Sindh Bank officials were arrested in the case for their alleged involvement in the embezzlement.

Khairpur covers the largest area of M6 with 76km followed by 70km in Matiari, 64kms in Naushahro Feroze and 59km in Shaheed Benazirabad. In Naushahro Feroze, Rs3.61bn were paid to 850 landowners by then DC without sending a notice to NHA, said the sources.

All stages like compliance of sections 4, 5 and 6 of LAA 1894 which dealt with measurement, identification and demarcation of land had been complied with, they said.

According to the project documents available with Dawn, for the purpose of land acquisition NHA had deposited Rs15,237.30m with the Sindh government, which included Rs4,092.67m for Matiari; Rs3,618.95m for Naushahro Feroze; Rs4.076.07m for Khairpur, Rs3028.68m for Shaheed Benazirabad; Rs321.14m for Hyderabad and Rs99.79m for Sukkur. Of this amount, Rs5,700m had been disbursed so far and Rs9,248m, out of Rs15,237.30m remained, said the sources.

“So far as the land scams are concerned the affected parts of the land fall in the 36km Matiari and 64km in Naushahro Feroz section,” said an official.

The colonial era LAA, 1894, was a comprehensive law and it was mandatorily invoked for the purpose of acquisition of land in any public sector project. In many cases in the past, land acquisition proceedings in mega projects were hit by misappropriation of funds, causing hiccups in the execution of the project in question.

“The project’s procurement process by NHA has almost finished,” said Lohano, adding that the financial close for the project would be completed within six months.

The federal government, according to the project document, would pitch in Rs9.5bn as upfront viability gap funding while contractor was bound to pay Rs4,087bn as NHA’s share over 25 years period. “Increase in NHA’s share is directly linked with increase in contractor’s share. The total cost of the project is Rs307,394m [Rs307bn],” said the official.

Minister asks BoR to penalise officials involved in the scam

Sindh Minister for Revenue Makhdoom Mehboobuzzaman has directed the Senior Member of Board of Revenue (BoR) to impose penalty on all the officials involved in M6 land acquisition funds scam.

He asked the member to start correspondence with commissioners of Hyderabad and Sukkur to obtain details about the suspects.

Subsequently, he said, a comprehensive note should be moved to him for the imposition of a major penalty on all those who were found guilty of the crime

In his letter dated Dec 7 he wrote to BoR that Hyderabad-Sukkur M6 motorway scam had tarnished the image of revenue officials, though prompt action by chief minister produced good results.

Now, he said, it was binding on BoR to impose a major penalty on all the employees found involved in the scam. An exemplary precedent must be set for future, it said.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2022

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