- NAB terms Punjab govt’s allegations in case ‘baseless’
LAHORE: A local court on Sunday allowed a one-day physical remand of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bismillah Engineering, Shahid Shafiq, into National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) custody.
Shafiq’s company was part of the joint venture Lahore Casa Developers that NAB has said was ineligible to receive the contract.
The accused, who was arrested a day earlier after former Lahore Development Authority (LDA) director general Ahad Cheema identified him, was brought to the district court under strict security.
‘PUNJAB GOVT ALLEGATIONS BASELESS’:
Meanwhile, the NAB on Sunday called the Punjab government’s allegations on the apex anti-corruption organisation over Ahad Cheema’s arrest “baseless”.
According to a NAB spokesperson, in 2015, Cheema awarded a contract to Bismillah Engineering —a C-4 company that was only eligible to receive contracts up to 150 million rupees.
The former LDA director general caused a loss of 455 million rupees to the national exchequer, stated the NAB spokesperson.
Bismillah Engineering owned ninety per cent shares, while Sparco Construction Company and China First Metallurgical held ten per cent shares each yet a joint venture of the three companies was awarded a contract in 2015.
The NAB spokesperson further stated that 61,000 citizens had filed requests for the Ashiana Housing Scheme and paid 60 million rupees in processing fees. The cost of the project had increased due to corruption, he added.
The NAB spokesperson said that Paragon City Project Director Nadeem Zia transferred 30.90 million allocated for the purchase of land to his own bank account.
Cheema had also obtained a 32-Kanal piece of land in Lahore Cantonment, registered in the name of his cousin and siblings Ahmed Cheema and Sadia Mansoor, said the NAB spokesperson.
AHAD CHEEMA’S ARREST:
On Wednesday, the anti-corruption watchdog arrested Ahad Cheema in relation to the Ashiana Housing Scheme corruption scandal.
Cheema, who was taken into custody by the anti-graft watchdog from the office of Punjab Power Company in Gulberg, faces charges of illegally allotting land for the housing scheme in Lahore.
The arrest came after Cheema failed to appear before the bureau despite several notices.
Later, an accountability court handed over Ahad Cheema to NAB on an 11-day physical remand.
On Saturday, the anti-graft watchdog claimed to have obtained an important record of Ahad Cheema in the Ashiana Housing Scheme scandal, further tightening the noose around the important bureaucrat of Punjab.
According to reports, details regarding mobile phone calls and emails have also been seized while the bureau has also sought expert assistance to recover the deleted data.
On the other hand, DMG officers during a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, demanded Cheema’s release, saying that if the arrest is necessary then he should be nabbed in a proper way. The Punjab bureaucracy on Friday also submitted a charter of demands to the Punjab government, urging the formation of a judicial-like tribunal for their constitutional protection.
The bureaucrats also observed a complete lockdown of offices at the Punjab Secretariat in protest of the arrest. The offices remain closed on Friday till members of opposition in the Punjab Assembly forcefully got the doors unlocked.
Shaken over the arrest, the Punjab cabinet on Friday also expressed deep concern over the arrest. A meeting of the cabinet agreed that the arrest was “unwarranted and illegal” and the NAB had illegally used its powers in this regard.
The cabinet labeling the arrest “discriminatory and partial treatment” decided that the Punjab government would immediately approach the federal government on the issue.
CHARGES AGAINST FORMER LDA DG:
In response, the NAB revealed the grounds for the arrest and stated that the inquiry conducted by the bureau so far produced sufficient evidence to prove LDA ex-DG’s involvement in the scam.
Stating further the details that led to Cheema’s arrest, the bureau said that the Punjab Land Development Co assigned the Ashiana Housing Scheme project to LDA, where Cheema as its DG misused his authority and received illegal gratification in the form of 32 kanals of land valuing approximately Rs30 million from the owners of Paragon City. The accused also awarded the contract for the project to Lahore Casa Developers, that was ineligible for the contract.
The document further stated that Cheema was given a chance to explain the allegations revealed in the probe but he failed to submit any plausible reply and remained absent from the proceedings despite being served two notices, and so, his arrest was “necessary to recover the corruption money and concluding the investigation in accordance with the law”.
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Really pleased to see pillars working without influence. Tone of the top is right so all is well.
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