In its first high-level crackdown against rampant corruption in Pakistan Railways, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested General Manager Operations Pakistan Railways (PR) Saeed Akhtar on Thursday.
A special cell constituted by NAB investigating corruption cases in PR arrested Akhtar for misuse of authority and alleged involvement in embezzlement worth Rs600 million. He was summoned to the NAB office in Islamabad and taken into custody.
Akhtar had retired earlier this month but was granted a year-long extension by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
The Supreme Court had referred PR’s corruption cases to NAB for further probe earlier this month.
The bureau’s chairman then established a special cell, headed by Director-General Operations Col (retd) Shahzad Bhatti to deal with these cases.
“The special cell found GM Railways guilty in a corruption case worth Rs500 million,” a senior investigator told The Express Tribune.
Investigators have already arrested three employees of PR and suspended 14 others on charges of corruption. Some accused have been released on bail after depositing the embezzled amount, sources added. Officials investigating the encroachment on PR-owned land said that out of a total 5,000 acres of land, 771 acres, amounting to Rs400 billion, has been recovered from 2,000 illegal occupants so far.
Allegations against Akhtar were levelled during investigations of scrap scandal by former controller of stores PR Khalid Mohiuddin.
Sitting Railways minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour and former secretary railways Samiul Haq Khilji have also been named in the same scandal.
Interestingly, in an official statement issued to media on March 28, NAB said it had shut down inquiries against Akhtar and Khilji due to lack of evidence.
A senior NAB official told The Express Tribune that the cell also established some facts against Bilour.
The bureau, however, is yet to issue arrest-warrants for other officials involved due to pressure mounted by political leaders, the official said.
“Bilour is accused of giving permission for awarding tenders to certain contractors after receiving bribes from them,” the official added.
The minister, however, denied the allegation, saying, “The tenders were awarded on merit. There needs to be a fair inquiry into the scrap scandal.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2012.