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June 30, 2020

Court records statements of witnesses in Ashiana case

Lahore

June 30, 2020

LAHORE:An accountability court on Monday adjourned the hearing of Ashiana Housing reference until 6th August after recording statements of prosecution witnesses.

The jail authorities produced LDA’s former DG Ahad Khan Cheema and co-accused Shahid Shafique before the court. Moreover, advocate Nawaz marked attendance on behalf of Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif and one Muhammad Shahbaz marked attendance on behalf of Fawad Hassan Fawad as both had exemption from personal appearance. The court recorded the statements of prosecution witnesses and adjourned the case until 6th August.

The NAB had filed reference against Shahbaz Sharif, former Principal Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad, Nadeem Zia, Kamran Kayani, brother of former Army Chief Ashfaque Parvez Kayani, Munir Zia, Khalid Hussain, Ali Sajid, Shahid Chaudhry, Ahad Cheema, Bilal Kidwai, Shahid Shafique, Imtiaz Haider, Israr Saeed and Arif Butt. The court had framed charges against the accused except Nadeem Zia and Kamran Kayani as both are proclaimed offenders.

As per the reference, the NAB had accused Shahbaz Sharif of misusing his authority that resulted in failure of the project, depriving 61,000 applicants of housing units. The NAB alleged that Shahbaz, in connivance with former LDA DG Ahad Cheema, awarded the contract to a proxy firm. Moreover, Shahbaz Sharif usurped the powers of the Board of Directors of the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) and transferred the project of Ashiana-e-Iqbal from PLDC to LDA. The illegal act of the former chief minister caused a loss to the state exchequer amounting to Rs660 million and also led to an escalation of the project cost by approximately Rs3.39 billion, the reference said.

According to the National Accountability Bureau, the Ashiana Housing Project contract was awarded to Chaudhry Latif and Sons after approval from the PLDC Board of Directors and through open bidding on January 24, 2013 and a sum of Rs75 million was paid to the construction firm as advance mobilisation. The company started construction work and no other bidder challenged the award of the contract within 15 days as per PEPRA rules. However, according to NAB, on February 25, 2013, Shahbaz Sharif illegally ordered an inquiry on a bogus complaint and constituted an inquiry committee headed by Tariq Bajwa to look into any wrongdoing in awarding the contract. Bajwa, then finance secretary, completed the audit and submitted his report on 5th March, 2013.

As per the committee report, the contract was awarded as per the PEPRA rules with some minor irregularities. The NAB claims that Shahbaz illegally assumed the powers of PLDC Board of Directors and referred the case to the Anti-Corruption Establishment with the help of co-accused Fawad Hassan Fawad. Moreover, according to the NAB investigation, the bogus complaint was filed by the Canpro Services Private Limited which paid bribe worth millions to Fawad, then secretary implementation, to cancel the contract.

The Canpro Services Private Limited is said to be owned by Kamran Kayani. The NAB has alleged that Shahbaz, while chairing a meeting, illegally ordered the transfer of Ashiana project to the LDA from PLDC which was constituted to complete projects like Ashiana and only its board of directors had the authority to take such a decision. After getting the project, the LDA handed over the Ashiana project to Bismillah Engineering, which is a proxy company of the Paragon City allegedly owned by Saad Rafique.