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November 26, 2020

Ashiana Housing Scheme scam: SC grants bail to Ahad Cheema, Shahid Shafiq

National

November 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday granted bail to Ahad Cheema and Shahid Shafiq, accused persons in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme scandal. A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Mushir Alam while hearing bail applications granted bail to Ahad Cheema, former director general of Lahore Development Authority (LDA), and Shahid Shafiq, prime accused in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme scandal. The court accepted the bail applications of both the accused on surety bonds of Rs 1 million each.

Appearing on notice, Ashter Ausaf represented Shahid Shafiq while Amjad Pervez Malik appeared on behalf of Ahad Cheema. Arguing before the court, Ashter Ausaf submitted before the court that out of 86 witnesses, only 11 have been examined in a period of two years and nine months. He submitted that his client Shahid Shafiq was arrested in February 2018 and a reference was filed against him in December 2018 while he was indicted in February 2019. “Such a long delay is unconscionable and strikes at the very root of our justice system where an accused is made to suffer imprisonment without any conviction,” Ashter Ausaf contended. He said the co-accused who are facing similar charges are on bail hence his client deserves equal treatment. He submitted that the case made by the NAB is bogus as no land was ever given and no loss has been made to the provincial national exchequer and nothing has been recovered.

He submitted that the contract was terminated 6 months before the complaint was made. “Since the co-accused whose case is on a par with the petitioner have been granted bail, the delay in conclusion of trial has been found to be unconscionable, the arrest has been ruled to smack of mala fide, the allegation of constructive possession was found to be false and no wrongful gain has been attributed to the petitioner. Therefore, in the facts and circumstances of the case, this is a fit case for grant of bail.

Barrister Amjad Pervez, counsel for Ahad Cheema, submitted that the allegation against his client of benefitting the Paragon Housing Society is baseless, adding that the allegation of getting eight Kanals from the Paragon Housing Society as bribe by his client is also baseless. He submitted that the transfer of land to sister Saadia Mansoor, brother Ahmed Saood and Ahmed Hassan, a relative, have nothing to do with his client. He submitted that neither Nepra rules had been violated in the instant contract nor irregularities had been made.

Imranul Haq, additional prosecutor, NAB, submitted before the court that the Bismillah Engineering is in fact a dummy of the Paragon Housing Society, adding that the society had transferred the amount to the account of Bismillah Engineering and the same amount was deposited in the account of the LDA. He submitted that some three weeks before the contract of the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme, eight Kanals each were transferred in the name of Ahad Cheema, his sister Saadia Mansoor, brother Ahmed and Ahmed Hassan. The NAB additional prosecutor contended that Ahmed Cheema being the prime accused in the matter should not be granted bail.

Amjad Pervez contended that his client had been behind the bars for two years and nine months and he deserves bail. Later, the court granted bail to Ahad Cheema and Shahid Shafique.

It is pertinent to mention here that during the previous hearing, the NAB had contended in the instant case that it has filed a reference against Ahad Cheema over charges of embezzlement in the Ashiana Housing Scheme, misuse of authority and illegal award of the Ashiana-e-Iqbal project contract worth Rs 14 billion to the Lahore CASA Developers.