LAHORE - Punjab cabinet has decided to seek federal government’s immediate intervention in the alleged illegal arrest by NAB of a top bureaucrat, Ahad Khan Cheema, who has served on key posts in the provincial capital and headed some key development projects of PML-N government.

Chaired by Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, a cabinet meeting yesterday lavished praised on the arrested officer and expressed “deep concern” on his arrest, terming it “unwarranted and illegal”.

Dubbing Cheema “a most dutiful, honest and hardworking bureaucrat”, the cabinet alleged NAB of misuse of its powers. It termed the arrest an act aimed at impeding the completion of the development projects in the province.

The National Accountability Bureau on Wednesday arrested Ahad Cheema, former Lahore Development Authority director general and Quaid-e-Azam Thermal Power Limited CEO, after he failed to appear in NAB office for a probe into corruption in Ashiana Housing project.

The anti-corruption watchdog later got his 11-day physical remand from the accountability court, sending shudders down the spine of provincial bureaucracy and invoking resentment in the Punjab government.

Ahad Cheema is deeply connected to energy and infrastructure projects in the Punjab that are being completed through the public-private companies. Many people believe he is a blue-eyed boy of CM Shehbaz as the officer has been serving on key posts over the past decade.

The CSS cadre, to which Cheema belongs, has reacted sharply to his arrest and its officers have gone on strike. But the PCS/PMS cadre officers – who are in large majority – have refused to join this protest, calling it illegal. Opposition alleges that the government itself is behind the strike by the CSS officers.

The cabinet meeting was convened after a group of CSS officers met with the chief minister on Thursday and recorded their protest, demanding some step by the government to secure release of Ahad Cheema.

The cabinet meeting viewed that Cheema “is liked by many due to speedy and transparent preparation and completion of development projects in the province”. It praised his “conspicuous role” in the “historic achievements” gained by the government to rid the people of the menace of loadshedding.

The provincial cabinet decided that Ahad Cheema and his family will be provided every possible moral and legal assistance. The cabinet also decided to constitute a cabinet committee in this regard.

The cabinet expressed its deep concern that an effort was being made to create hurdle in completion of such projects of public welfare which are the hallmark of the Punjab government, through creating an environment of fear among the bureaucracy. The cabinet expressed its deep concern that an effort was being made to create hurdle in completion of such projects of public welfare which are the hallmark of the Punjab government, through creating an environment of fear among the bureaucracy. 

The cabinet members strongly condemned such steps, and expressed their unity to protect and stand with the officers “becoming target of injustice and discriminatory attitude”.

The cabinet opined that it was a reality that at first, an inquiry is held in such cases and afterwards, the process of investigation is carried out and reference is filed upon its findings. Afterwards, charges are framed by the accountability court.

It is a regrettable matter that while the process of inquiry has been started in the first phase of this case and NAB has only levelled charges, Ahad Cheema has been arrested without making it to the last three phases, the cabinet noted.

Due to it, the cabinet is of the view that the process of arrest of Ahad Cheema is reflective of discriminatory and partial treatment, it said.

The cabinet decided that Punjab government shall immediately approach the federal government on the issue of Cheema’s arrest and demand it to play a role to ensure supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law. It was also decided in the meeting to present this matter for discussion in the Punjab Assembly.

PM, CM HOLD TALKS

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif had a meeting in Model Town here yesterday.

During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, political situation and party affairs came under discussion.

On the occasion, the chief minister said, “Pakistan cannot afford confrontation at any cost and we all need to work collectively for public welfare and national development.” He said that PML-N had always followed the rule of law. The supremacy of law and constitution will have to be ensured to move further. He said that mission of public service and prosperity will be carried forward.