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Power players playing on project funds

December 18, 2009

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KASUR, Dec 17 A PML-N lawmaker, two top officials and a local government representative are playing politics at the Rs2.37 billion development funds for the district.

The ongoing tussle involves Punjab Chief Secretary Javed Mahmood, now transferred DCO Abdul Jabbar Shaheen, PML-N MNA Sheikh Waseem and Tehsil Nazim Agha Naveed Hashim Rizvi.

Those benefiting from the development funds, including contractors and brick kiln owners, staged rallies in favour of Shaheen, who was transferred from here under political pressure. Shaheen is currently attending a NIPA course in Lahore. The demonstrators demanded that Shaheen should be brought back to the district, and ransacked the office of Waseem. PML-N parliamentarians, activists and contractors who could not benefit from these funds staged protests against Shaheen and alleged embezzlement of funds.

PML-N workers forced Rizvi, a close aide of Shaheen, to leave the stage when Punjab Prisons Minister Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor was administering oath to the newly appointed educators here about two weeks ago.

More than Rs1 billion funds meant for Kasur city are being spent on the development of Roshan Bheela, the village of the chief secretary that has a population of 5,000 people. The village has been named after chief secretary's grandfather. Instead of the district headquarters, Roshan Bheela village has got a stadium, a library, a Danish Public School, seven parks, a dual carriageway, schools for girls and boys and a 150-bed hospital. The village is being supplied irrigation water through a link canal originating from BRB Canal. The chief secretary had appointed Shaheen DCO of Kasur to get development work at his village done without any hindrance.

Local political analysts believe that the chief secretary or somebody from his family would contest election from the area under the PML-N banner and that is why the top official is so much concerned about development of his area.

The Kasur TMA, headed by Rizvi, provided every help for development work at the chief secretary's village. It released Rs2.5 million for development at Roshan Bheela on Oct 27 despite a ban on release of funds for any project.

Rizvi said provision of machinery for development work at Roshan Bheela did not affect other development works in the city and added that funds were released legally on the orders of the Punjab government.

Local political analysts say Rizvi did all this so generously because he is planning to contest the next election from the PML-N platform.

A few roads have been constructed in Kasur city so far and those too in an

Ill-planned manner despite the fact that hundreds of houses and shops were razed during a so-called anti-encroachment campaign. Shaheen fined a number of encroachers, but did not give them receipts. A row between Shaheen and Waseem erupted when encroachments were being demolished. Taking advantage of the situation, PPP and PML-Q activists supported Shaheen and encouraged him to carry on the operation. Waseem tried to get the operation halted, but failed. As a result, Waseem's popularity graph went down. In retaliation, Waseem incited traders against Shaheen, but failed to get the desired results. Some days ago, Waseem played another card when he held a press conference along with the vegetable market traders, who were unhappy with Shaheen over transfer of the market out of the city.

Later, the MNA held a press conference at his office and accused Shaheen and Rizvi of embezzling funds and misusing authority. He said funds had been misused and roads had been constructed with substandard material. He denied charges of land grab. He said Shaheen allotted subsidised tractors to his favourites, including the chief secretary and some lawyers.

Recently, Waseem complained to the chief minister about the prevailing situation, but to no avail.

District Nazim Imran Naul was not available for a comment. However, District Naib Nazim Maqsood Sabir said funds for Roshan Bheela village were sanctioned by the Punjab government under various heads. He said that 60 per cent of district funds, which had been unspent for the last three years, were being spent on Roshan Bheela village.