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NAB refuses to let Shahbaz go in Aashiyana scam case

NAB refuses to let Shahbaz go in Aashiyana scam case

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday claimed to have irrefutable evidence to link former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, former principal secretary to then prime minister Fawad Hassan Fawad and former director general of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) Ahad Cheema in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme scam case.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed will resume on Wednesday (today) the hearing on NAB’s appeal against the Feb 14 Lahore High Court’s acceptance of bail request and release of Shahbaz Sharif and others.

Shahbaz was taken into custody by the Lahore National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in connection with the Ashiyana Housing case on Oct 5, 2018. He was charged with misuse of authority by unlawfully assuming powers of the board of directors of the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC), and awarding a contract to an ineligible proxy firm that resulted in the failure of the housing scheme. The scam caused a loss to the public exchequer and deprived 61,000 applicants of houses.

Anti-graft body claims to have irrefutable evidence to link former Punjab CM to project

According to NAB, Shahbaz Sharif is facing allegations of cancelling the first successful bid for the contract in bad faith and the successful bidder had to be paid Rs6 million as penalty and later intervened in the second bidding process.

Subsequently, Paragon City Pvt Ltd was awarded the contract for 2,000 kanals of land for Rs4 billion and by using government finances, the project was turned into a public-private partnership, NAB contended adding this was done to benefit Paragon City.

The housing scheme was initiated with land measuring 3,100 kanals allocated to the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) by the Punjab government. The lands for the project were located adjacent to the lands of Paragon City.

In the first bidding process, NAB stated, the lowest bidder was Chaudhry A Latif and Sons who were awarded the contract for the infrastructure development of the housing scheme in Lahore on Jan 24, 2013.

NAB contended that Mr Fawad, the then secretary implementation, allegedly received bribes amounting to Rs55 million in two tranches from Kamran Kiyani, owner of Conpro Services Pvt Ltd, the second lowest bidder, for which money trail was available. These amounts were received through banking channels in the names of Mr Fawad’s brother Waqar Hassan and his brother’s wife Anjum Hassan.

Mr Fawad pressurised PLDC officials by concealing report of an enquiry committee of March 5, 2013 in which it was held that the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder in accordance with the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules though there were some procedural irregularities.

PLDC was forced to write a letter on March 15, 2013 stating that it was not feasible for PLDC to proceed with the project which resulted in huge losses to the government.

Subsequently the second bidding process for the housing scheme was initiated on Dec 22, 2013 in which 50 contractors applied for pre-qualification. Once again, former Punjab CM stepped in and headed a PLDC meeting on Feb 27, 2014 in which he was told that second bidding process was in progress. On March 24, 2014, the second bidding process was halted unlawfully on the directions of Punjab CM. This enabled Mr Cheema of the LDA to obtain 100 kanals from Paragon City as bribe, NAB alleged.

In his final act of corruption, the anti-graft body claimed Shahbaz chaired a meeting of PLDC at his residence without an agenda or complaint in which only CEO of PLDC and Mr Cheema were present.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2019

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