NAB to probe ‘graft’ in land acquisition for Diamer-Bhasha Dam


–Anti-graft body to investigate alleged financial embezzlement of billions in land purchase, rehabilitation affectees


ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had decided to investigate the alleged financial embezzlement of billions of rupees in the land acquisition process for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam project, Pakistan Today has learnt.

According to sources, the anti-graft body has initiated a probe into the land acquisition process which may or may not have been as transparent as claimed by the previous governments.

Although the officials at the bureau did not confirm the development, sources claimed that the NAB has started collecting documents/data and evidence of the land purchase process which was started in 2007 and continued till 2015.

Residents of the area have been demanding an investigation against the land acquisition process as the influential and ‘corrupt’ government officials had allegedly pocketed billions of rupees by showing the land’s value as high.

As per the initial findings of the investigation, sources claim, a large sum from the national kitty was allegedly siphoned off through the purchase of private land at extraordinarily high rates. In several cases, the payment of one-acre land for the Bhasha Dam had been made around Rs 10 million (one crore for one acre), whereas the actual rate of the land, consisting of mountains and rocks, is hardly one lac rupees (Rs0.1 million), they added.

Three government tenures are involved in the land acquisition process including retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime, PPP and PML-N governments, whereas it was alleged that most of the damage was done during the time of PPP-led coalition government.

Over Rs 100 billion have been paid to different persons for the purchase of land for the Bhasha Dam by the PPP and PML-N governments, including the allocations for the land purchase and rehabilitation of about 4,000 families affected by the project. The Musharraf regime had made a payment of over a billion rupees and it carries the minimum responsibility for this mega scam, the sources said.

“The land acquisition process could only be proved as a scam of over Rs 20 billion. The district administration which included, deputy commissioner, assistant commissioner, tehsildar and others remained posted between 2007 to 2015 are the major beneficiaries of the scam,” said Mr Habib, an affectee and resident of Diamer.

Out of the allocated compensation amount, sources at Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), said at least Rs 58 billion were released to the government of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) for disbursement among the dam affectees. However, around Rs 12 billion were reportedly yet to be distributed among the affectees for various disputes and pending cases related to the land.

According to sources, a chunk of the land measuring 14,325 acres (114,601 kanals) of the total 18,357 acres of private land has been transferred to the WAPDA, paving way for the authorities to move forward for the execution of the 4,500MW Diamer-Basha Dam project.

The total land required for the project is 37,419 acres which included 19,062 acres of state and 18,357 acres of private land under cultivation, barren and other uses. A sizeable number of the government, community and business infrastructures will be affected by the project.

The government has completed 85 per cent of the total land acquisition and nearly 95 per cent of the land required for the reservoir alone.

The location is 40km downstream of Chilas, the district headquarters of Diamer in the GB federating unit. It will displace 30,350 people living in 4,266 households of 32 villages, situated above the dam site on both left and right banks of river Indus. The land acquisition for the two of the total three proposed model villages and the piece of land along the disputed boundary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and GB has been a major bottleneck in the way of execution of the project.