NAB gets hold of key documents for investigation on Ashiana and Metro projects

Published: August 4, 2018
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PHOTO: EXPRESS

PHOTO: EXPRESS

LAHORE: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore has acquired crucial records of three mega projects that were supervised by former Lahore Development Authority Director General (LDA DG) Ahad Khan Cheema.

The projects included Orange Line Metro train, Lahore Metro Bus and Rawalpindi Bus project. The anti-graft body had arrested Cheema in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing scheme scam.

During the investigations, NAB had found that Cheema misused his authority in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing society scam and possessed assets beyond his known means of income.

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As part of the investigations against him, NAB had written to the Mass Transit Authority to provide the records of the case so it could proceed further.

An officer of NAB confirmed to The Express Tribune that the relevant authorities had provided important files including the audit reports of the projects. The officer added that the documents included evidence of irregularities in the projects.

Serving as LDA DG, Ahad Khan Cheema played an important role in the establishment of the Metro Bus project in Lahore. The initial cost of the project was Rs30 billion. However, at the completion of the project, its cost had soared to Rs70 billion which was more than the double initial estimate.

The project was completed in 11 months; a period claimed to be unprecedented for such a mega project. The initiative was criticised for corruption as well as causing destruction to heritage, public and private buildings etc. However, the then ruling party, PML-N, had promoted the transport system as a symbol of progress and development.

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The project was replicated in Rawalpindi as well. Cheema and former Chief Secretary Zahid Saed also played a role in the construction of Rawalpindi Metro Bus terminals.

The former LDA chief is in jail after serving a physical remand of 90 days with NAB. Under the NAB ordinance, an accused can be kept in custody for investigation for a maximum 90 days in a case. Cheema was reportedly the only accused to complete this term.

Cheema was arrested over corruption in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Society scam and some startling revelations were made during investigations against him and the project.

The government of Punjab had set up Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) to provide housing facilities to the public at subsidised rates. A project named Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Society was initiated in Lahore.

The project was supposed to be replicated in other cities after its success in Lahore.

Despite spending of millions of rupees and a lapse of many years, the project could not be initiated. During the investigations, NAB found that Ahad Khan Cheema had awarded the contract of the project to Casa Developers, a company that did not qualify for such a mega project in return for a bribe of 30 kanals of land.

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The payment to purchase the land was made from the account of Paragon Housing Society. During the investigation of another case, NAB found that a murky deal between Ashiana-e-iqbal and Paragon Housing Society had been made over the exchange of 40 kanals of land.

The anti-graft watchdog, during investigations, also found that Cheema had accumulated assets beyond his means. He had several bank accounts in Pakistan and abroad.

In the project, another close aide of Sharif family, ex-principal secretary to prime minister Fawad Hassan Fawad, was also arrested. NAB said that they had recovered cell phones, laptops, USBs etc from Cheema and Fawad. During the forensic audit and analysis of the data, they found startling evidence on the basis of which they had decided to expand the scope of their investigations.

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