ISLAMABAD - Besides tall claims of revenue increase by Communication Minister Murad Saeed, the National Highway Authority has failed to operationalise Sahianwala Service Area on M-4 so far.

Murad Saeed on last Thursday in an informal interaction with a group of journalists at the Ministry of Communication has once again mentioned the successful bidding of the service area.

While ignoring political and bureaucratic pressure, the NHA had invited bids from interested parties in December 2018 when the last extension given to previous tenant expired. In response, the NHA received the highest bid amounting Rs6.5 million per month which is 2,830 percent higher than previous rent of Rs160,000 per month.

However, the top management of NHA has failed to operationalise the said service area because the previous lease holder declined to hand over the possession back to NHA.

Sources informed that though the NHA successfully managed to auction the service area, it is showing reluctance to take its possession and wasted almost three months. This is the only service area on Faisalabad Motorway and due to its closure, the commuters are suffering. 

When Contacted, the General Manager Public Relations NHA who is also looking the day-to-day affairs of Right of Way Directorate informed that there is a court case due to which we were careful to take possession.  “There is no stay order in the favour of previous lease holder and we will get its possession by force if he will show any resistance”, he maintained. 

The said lease for construction, operation and management of filling stations including allied facilities at Sahinwala service area was given to M/s Parco Pakistan Ltd. on a monthly rent of Rs160,000 for 15 years during the regime of Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf in a tainted manner without going through a competitive process.

Out of total 17 kanals and 3 marla land of service area on both sides of the Motorway, the mentioned firm was given 4 kanals and 3 marla land on both sides, where the M/s Parco Pakistan Ltd built 2 petrol pumps along with some allied facilities.

This said agreement was set to expire in December 2018. However, before the expiry of the contract, the owners had started lobbying to get further extension for 15 years but on same rates or with nominal increase.

Sources revealed that the previous leaseholder had used a topmost political office bearer of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government during their last few months in power to get extension of his lease on existing rates.

However, instead of giving an extension, the NHA’s management decided to use delaying tactics to avoid political pressure and floated a formal tender to invite fresh bids after formation of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in 2018.

In response, the NHA had received the highest bid of Rs6.5 million per month from M/s Taj Corporation, which is 2,830 percent higher than the previous rent while this rent would also be increased 10 percent annually.

Furthermore, all the costs for construction and establishment of filling stations and allied facilities would be borne by the successful bidder while it will hand over the whole structure after expiry of its contract. 

The continuous delay on the part of NHA to get the site vacated by previous lease owner is not only a revenue loss but it is also a question mark on the performance of incumbent government. 

A well placed source commented that the federal minister should intervene in the matter instead of just showing half-baked initiatives.