BAHAWALNAGAR: The officials holding the charge of seven wheat procurement centres of the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) who were found guilty of massive corruption in distribution of gunny bags in a Special Branch report alleged that they were forced to violate the policy by their high-ups, especially the zonal head Malik Jibran Pervez, and demanded the authorities to take action against the actual culprits. They have sought security also, saying they are facing threats from angry farmers.

On May 16, seven Passco center in-charges, whose corruption was reported by Dawn, namely Adnan Khalid of Chubyana, Sajjad Ali Qazi of Madrassa, Hafiz Waleed Sarwar of Tuba Qalandar Shah, Muhammad Nawaz Bhatti and Muhammad Daniyal of Bahawalnagar and Shah Rukh Zahoor of Mari Mian, sent a letter to the managing director (MD) of the corporation.

In the letter, a copy available with Dawn, they admitted that they embezzled hundreds of millions of rupees in bardana issuance but they did it on being forced by zonal head Malik Jibran Pervez. The officials claimed that they had sent the record of corruption to the MD office along with their complaint.

However, Jibran says his subordinates are making allegations against him to blackmail him to get their targets increased.

Zonal head denies the charge, saying centre in-charges want to blackmail him

Accusing their zonal head, the Passco centre in-charges say thousands of sacks of wheat from different parties were purchased at the centres while neither the bardana was issued nor was it transferred to their centres. Gunny bags in excess of the target were bought and unloaded at the centres by force and now the zonal head and wheat owners are threatening the center in-charges to pay for these thousands of sacks, the letter says.

Thousands of official gunny bags from warehouses and centres in Bahawalnagar were released by the verbal orders of the zonal head to the people of his choice. The letter goes on to say that to cover up the irregularities and massive corruption, the zonal head first issued explanation letters to the centre in-charges on April 10, however, these letters were cancelled by him on the same date when the centre in-charges stated the facts in response to it.

The complainants said that due to the irregularities, the farmers have become mortal enemies of the center in-charges due to which they were unable to perform their duties and had to go into hiding. They demanded action against zonal head Jibran Pervez.

It’s worth mentioning that on April 16, Dawn revealed the names of 22 Passco officials, including the above seven officials, and the zonal head for selling gunny bags to traders. The sources told Dawn that the Passco general manager has taken notice of the report and teams are collecting records from these seven Passco centres.

A report of Special Branch (SB), a copy available with Dawn, revealed that all 22 centre in-charges from Bahawalnagar and Minchinabad tehsil were involved in selling gunny bags to traders instead of farmers. The report claimed that Passco centre in-charges, purchase inspectors, project managers and DGM Passco were involved in unfair distribution of gunny bags.

Speaking to Dawn about the matter, Passco Zonal head Malik Jibran Pervez claims that he never asked any centre in-charge to purchase excess quantities of wheat beyond their assigned targets and false allegations against him by his subordinates is their attempt to blackmail him.

He says the Passco wheat procurement centre in-charges want to get their targets increased but he would not be blackmailed in doing so.

Intelligence sources have also told Dawn that all the Passco centre in-charges indulged in corruption willingly and not under any pressure from their bosses while they are now trying to make their zonal head a scapegoat after they themselves were caught red-handed. The sources claim that the records of all 22 Passco centres of Minchinabad and Bahawalnagar are incomplete, adding that Bardana corruption involves not only Passco staffers but also revenue officials and some legislators of the ruling PML-N.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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