LAHORE - An accountability court on Tuesday extended for another 14 days physical remand of six accused, including former director general of Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema, for their alleged role in the Aashiyana-i-Iqbal housing scam.

NAB officials produced the suspects -- Cheema, Bismillah Engineering Company owner Shahid Shafiq, LDA Chief Engineer Israr Saeed, Punjab Land Development Company Chief Engineer Col (retd) Arif Majeed, former chief executive officer of PLDC Imtiaz Haider and PLDC official Bilal Qidwai.

Police officials were escorting Cheema like a “personal security squad” during his appearance before the court. They barred media from coverage of the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal housing scam case, closed down the courtroom and behaved rudely with reporters who had reached there to attend the court proceedings.

Police officials, who failed to produce any written order from the court authorities, kept insisting that they had been ordered by the judge to stop media persons from coverage of the housing scam. However, with the interference of lawyers, reporters were allowed to enter the courtroom.

Meanwhile, proceedings of other courts were also affected by rude behaviour and unprofessional attitude of police who forced the litigants to stay away from the court premises.

The counsel for the accused told the court that the contract was approved in accordance with the law and the government did not issue a single rupee for the contract. The counsel said that when there was not even a single rupee then how it could be said that huge amount was embezzled. He said that arrest of Cheema and others made by NAB officials was unlawful as no prior inquiry was held into the matter in question.

However, NAB lawyer Waris Janjua opposed their arguments and said that an important development took place during investigation of the accused persons, including Cheema. He pleaded the court to extend for another fifteen days physical remand of the accused. However, the court extended the remand for fourteen days and directed the NAB officials to produce them again on April 3.

Cheema was arrested last month for misusing his authority and, with criminal intent, processing and awarding Ashiyana-e-lqbal project contract worth Rs14 billion to Lahore CASA Developers, a joint venture a firm which was ineligible for the same. The contract was awarded in violation of PPP Act, 2014.

A NAB inquiry showed that Bismillah Engineering Services Co (a major shareholder in JV titled Lahore CASA Developers) was a proxy firm working on behalf of Paragon City (Pvt) Ltd.

Cheema allegedly received gratification in the form of 32 kanals of land (valuing Rs30.09 million approximately from the owners of Paragon City (Pvt) Ltd.

The government is facing a liquidation loss of about Rs455 million as the estimate of the construction of Ashiyana Iqbal Housing Scheme has increased manifold due to delay in the project.