LAHORE - The National Accountability Bureau Monday informed an accountability court that former LDA DG Ahad Khan Cheema allegedly awarded Rs 14 billion contract of Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme to Bismillah Company in return for 32 kanals of land.

According to NAB prosecutor Waris Janjua, the accused got the land transferred to his family members, including brother, sister and cousin. He disclosed eight kanals of land was transferred to each Ahad Khan Cheema, his sister Saeeda Manzoor, his brother Ahmed Saeed Cheema and cousin Asad Cheema.

At the end of the proceedings, the court extended till March 19 physical remand of former LDA DG Ahad Khan Cheema and Bismillah Engineering’s proprietor/partner Shahid Shafiq Alam Fardi into NAB’s custody for their alleged involvement in the scam.

The officials said they also issued notices to Cheema’s family members, but they did not appear before NAB.

Earlier, they produced both the suspects before the court after expiry of their previous remand amid strict security. Cheema, as compared to his previous appearance, looked anxious.

An investigation officer submitted preliminary report before the court, saying the investigation was still in progress. He said two mobile phones and a laptop taken from Ahad Khan Cheema had been sent to Forensic Science laboratory for forensic test.

He stated Ahad Cheema’s brother, sister and cousin were issued notices, but they did not appear before the NAB. The scheme’ forms were sold to people against Rs 60 million, but Rs 190 million were drawn from the national exchequer in the name of the payments.

The NAB officials said accused Shahid Shafiq Alam Faridi, proprietor/partner of M/S Bismillah Engineering Services, in connivance with Lahore Development Authority (LDA) officials, had presented false documents of the joint venture consisting of three firms/companies, including M/S Bismillah Engineering Services Co, M/S Sparco Construction Company and M/S China First Metallurgical Group Co, and secured the contract illegally.

Being the owner of the company, the accused was not eligible for award of the contract, the NAB officials held. They said the accused fraudulently represented M/S Sparco Company as a lead member of the joint venture. According to the joint venture agreement signed by him on May 18, 2015, the actual lead member was M/S Bismillah Engineering. This was done to cover the poor financial and technical capabilities of M/S Bismillah, the NAB officials observed.

The NAB officials sought 14-day further remand of both the accused to complete their investigation.

Previously, the NAB had secured 11-day physical remand of Ahad Khan Cheema and that of seven days of co-accused Shahid Shafiq Alam Faridi in the scam.

Several bureaucrats were there to support their colleague on the last hearing while media had been barred from covering the case. However, reporters and cameramen were allowed to cover his appearance before the court on Monday.

On the other hand, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh of the LHC directed federal and provincial governments to submit replies to a petition challenging pen-down strike by the officers of Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS) against the arrest of their colleague, former Lahore Development Authority DG Ahad Khan Cheema, in the housing scheme scam.

Advocate Humayun Faiz Rasool had moved the petition through Advocate Azhar Siddique, submitting that Punjab Civil Servants (Conduct) Rules, 1966, did not allow any civil servant to lodge protest against the state or its constitutional bodies like the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The rules, he said, did not allow civil servants to form any association, but the PAS officers had not only been running an association, but were also using the forum to pressurise constitutional institutions. He argued the rules did not allow civil servants to close their offices lodge a protest. He contended the PAS officers violated Pakistan Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1952, which did not allow them to leave their workplaces for a protest or agitation.

The lawyer further pleaded loyalty to the state was basic duty of every citizen, however, the respondent officers stood disloyal under Article 5 of the Constitution by their act of protesting against the constitutional institutions.

He asked the court to declare the pen-down strike of the PAS officers illegal and order the government not to intervene in the affairs of the NAB. He further asked the court to order disciplinary action against Punjab Additional Chief Secretary Umar Rasool and the others who joined protest and closed their offices.

Justice Sheikh sought more arguments and issued notices to the federal and provincial governments for April 5.

 

FIDA HUSSNAIN