Saturday September 25, 2021

Over 500 units in Punjab issued fake environmental NoCs

August 04, 2021
Over 500 units in Punjab issued fake environmental NoCs

LAHORE: A routine investigation by the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) may turn into a mega scam as so far the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has identified over 500 fake NoCs issued to different industrial units in the province.

The issue has also reached the power corridors in Islamabad because of the alleged involvement of a political figure allied to the ruling party. The EPD sources reveal that Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Azam Khan has sought a report from Punjab Chief Secretary Jawad Raffique Malik, who has submitted details of ongoing departmental probe and investigations held by the ACE.

Punjab EPD Secretary Zahid Hussain told this scribe that the department had so far identified over 500 fake NoCs issued to various industries, including multi-nationals. “The number is increasing every day,” he said but refused to give names of the industrial units to whom fake NoCs had been issued.

He said the department is coordinating with the ACE and every detail was being provided to investigators. He confirmed that the principal secretary had sought details of the case. To a question that he was appointed EPD secretary on the recommendations of a political figure allegedly involved in this scam, he said he is a government servant and his line of reporting is the Punjab chief secretary and the chief minister.

An alleged tug-of-war between the political figure and the EPD secretary started after the secretary suspended seven EPD officials on charges of issuing fake NoCs to industrial units. Later, he wrote to the Punjab ACE to launch an inquiry against those officials over their alleged involvement in the mega fraud.

The EPD secretary said his team caught the suspended officials red-handed doctoring official documents at a private office in Gulberg. He said at least 150 different files of the EPD office had been seized during the raid and these were of grave importance and related to the internal matters.

Those initially suspended included Inspector Anmol Tabassum, Inspector Abubakar, senior clerk Arif Manzoor and field assistant Muhammad Mushtaq. However, following different complaints of the same nature, the secretary made three officials —- Deputy Director Azhar Iqbal, Assistant Director Faheem Nasim and Assistant Director Muhammad Arshad —— OSDs.

Recently, Azhar Iqbal wrote to the chief minister, the chief secretary and other officials, accusing that the EPD secretary of indulging in corrupt practices, taking over the official record of his own business and later suspending four officials without holding any inquiry or cause notice.

In his letter, a copy of which is available with the scribe, he alleged that the EPD secretary used to destroy the footage of the EPD office to save his theft. He alleged that the EPD secretary had appointed an official focal person of the case, who himself was involved in various cases and facing NAB inquiries. In his letter, he appealed to the chief minister to intervene and stop the EPD secretary from taking illegal action against EPD officials.

About this letter, the EPD secretary said the mafia is trying to cover up. He said he himself wrote a the ACE to investigate the issue of fake NOCs and now the mafia is leveling baseless allegations against him.