The Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park gained countrywide notoriety after Rangers personnel were filmed killing a civilian, Sarfaraz Shah, there in June.
Now, the park is the centre of an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) for alleged corruption in its development.
On Friday, the ACE registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the former parks and horticulture director-general, Liaquat Ali Kaimkhani, and 21 other employees, six of which are contractual.
The ACE director, Javed Baloch, told The Express Tribune that although the investigation was underway, they had identified the 21 employees and Kaimkhani for now. “The park’s initial cost was Rs870 million and then it was bumped up to Rs1.5 billion,” Baloch said, explaining the extent of the alleged misappropriation. The investigation has been going on for over a month. Baloch put the estimate of the alleged corruption between Rs400 million and Rs500 million. The main allegations relate to how the fountains and trees were procured as well as the reported ‘fake entries’ in the documents. Baloch also claims that there are issues with the rates at which the items were purchased.
“We have a very strong case, we have collected all the rates for every item and compared it with the rates they have on file,” said Baloch. “Even the tender meant to be given to the lowest bidder was given to the highest bidder.”
A raid is scheduled for Saturday in connection with the case. Baloch also claims that “records” have gone missing and are allegedly with Kaimkhani.
According to Kaimkhani, his removal from the DG parks post had nothing to do with the case. There was an order to remove employees working on a consultancy or contractual basis and he said he fell in the latter category. Kaimkhani alleged that this “pressure” was being built to “defame him”. He told The Express Tribune that the record of the park’s development was shown to the court’s nazir (the court official who serves processes, acts as treasurer, and performs other similar duties) when the inquiry was initiated. “I personally went on a tour with him,” he said while refuting Baloch’s claim that the records have gone missing. He said that it was given to the investigators “within an hour” of them asking for it.
In reference to the rates, Kaimkhani said that they were decided by the planning and design department and had nothing to do with his department. He mounted a vigorous defence of his case and claimed that the investigators were unable to find a single case of wrongdoing.
Kaimkhani said that he was unaware of the FIR and had only heard of it through the media and friends. His stance is that the park’s accounts were audited by the auditor-general and the government looked into and approved the financial summaries for the project.
“Perhaps we would have been appreciated if we hadn’t built the park and just split the money amongst ourselves,” he said, while recalling that President Asif Ali Zardari had ordered the park to be developed within 90 days. “We have a record and I am ready to defend every single thing. They should at least show us what exactly we are being accused of.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.