The arrest of Ahad Cheema, former head of Lahore Development Authority (LDA), has stirred quite a controversy between National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Punjab government. His arrest was made for he was unable to present himself before the NAB to satisfy the latter over his involvement in Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scam.

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That Ahad Cheema was serving on a crucial governmental position indicates that he was a key component of Chief Minister’s (CM) Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif’s provincial administration. As such his arrest reflects poorly on the CM’s mantra of infrastructural development and good governance.

While the NAB insists that it has sufficient evidence regarding Cheema’s involvement in financial corruption, however, the investigation is currently in a preliminary phase and charges are yet to be framed. The contention against Ahad Cheema that he abused his authority and with criminal intent awarded the contract of Ashiana project to the ineligible join venture, Lahore Casa Developers, severely damages the credibility of Punjab government

The provincial government’s sharp criticism of his arrest is also misplaced. NAB has kept Mr. Cheema for preliminary investigation; charges against him are yet to be framed. Instead of blindly defending the former LDA chief, Punjab government needs to comply with the procedure and assist NAB in the case in hand. Neither should it see the probe as a conspiracy against the provincial government.

If the Punjab government wants to restore its “good governance” narrative it must effectively deal with such cases that undermine its performance. It must disavow all those implicated in financial impropriety, and it must do that with conviction. However it the government feels that Ahad Cheema is truly innocent then it is entitled to defending him against all charges, and it is certainly capable of doing so.