131b minted after RRR realignment: sources

Preliminary investigation reveals that 18 lawmakers are among beneficiaries of project


Talib Faridi May 22, 2021
Map shows the new alignment of the proposed Rawalpindi Ring Road Project. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD:

Housing societies and state agents minted around Rs131billion after the realignment of the Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR) project, a preliminary investigation undertaken by the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment has revealed.

Due to the controversial realignment of the mega project, over 50 powerful individuals and real estate dealers benefitted the most. The people associated with the scandal bought 64,000 kanal of land ahead of the realignment.

According to sources privy to the investigation, 18 National Assembly members including some ministers and three dozen builders and housing societies were among the beneficiaries of the realignment.

Around 17,117 kanals of land belonging to these lawmakers is directly or indirectly linked to the project. Most of the lawmakers received these pieces of land as inheritance.

Two of these lawmakers – belonging to the PPP – own 2,400 kanals of land in Sangjani. Three ministers own 2,500 kanals of land at Fateh Jang, Paswal, Attack and Islamabad’s Margalla Avenue.

Two PTI MNAs and four MPAs own around 6,000 kanals of land around Paswal Zigzag and Attock Loop. One MNA, one senator and two MPAs of the PML-N also own around 6,000 kanals around the project.

According to the investigation, a total of 18 housing societies bought around 13,000 kanals of land in Attock and did a business of around Rs11billion.

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Ten housing societies and a number of individuals did a business of around Rs50billion through sale of 24,500 kanals of land in Rawalpindi.  In Islamabad, ten housing societies and a number of individuals did a business of around Rs35billion by purchasing over 10,000 kanals of land.

The sources said 60% of the housing societies situated around the Ring Road project are illegal while 17 societies also owe the government taxes of Rs1.70billion. These societies and property dealers face over 300 cases in accountability courts.

The officials said the anti-graft establishment is also probing into issuance of Rs3.50billion by the district administrations of Rawalpindi and Attock for purchase of land. According to an official, the establishment has started its probe on the order of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

“We will submit our report to the CM, once the probe is concluded,” he said.

A number of senior officials including Rawalpindi’s former commission Muhammad Mahmood were found to be involved in illegally changing the alignment of Rawalpindi’s 65km long Ring Road project, according to a fact-finding inquiry.

The fact finding inquiry was undertaken to look into the allegations of illegalities in the change of the alignment of the project and the questions of corruption, rent seeking, and conflict of interest.

Rs60m paid to Ring Road affectees

According to the fact-finding committee, Mahmood, former land acquisition controller Waseem Ali Tabish and former Project Management United (PMU) deputy director Abdullah committed incurable illegalities, committed deceit and deception and issued orders without having due authority.

“[They also] committed abuse of public funds to benefit a rent-seeking syndicate including themselves.”
The inquiry said the former commissioner in sheer violation of laws and rules created rent seeking benefits for himself and a number of housing projects – Nova City, Capital Smart City, New Airport City/Al Asif Housing, Top city, SAS Developers, Blue World and Islamabad Capital Housing Society.

“It has been established that additions of Moorat-Attock Loop and Paswal Zigzag [to the project] were made to purely benefit private interests with the backing of influential public officeholders, past and present,  and influential bureaucrats.

“Through lies, deceit and deception this private rent seeking was being portrayed as public necessity.”
It said the federal as well as the Punjab governments were  kept in total darkness  about the necessary facts and every recommendation made by highest forums for presenting the alignment to the Punjab chief minister were willfully and repeatedly ignored.

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