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Friday August 12, 2022

R3 project: fresh inquiry finds PM office intervention

An inquiry found that following the direct intervention of the PM Office during Imran’s tenure Mahmood’s predecessor Gulzar Shah manufactured an “illegal and mala fide report”

July 05, 2022
In this photo, ex-PM Imran Khan is seen unveiling the plaque for groundbreaking of the Rawalpindi Ring Road project on March 19, 2022. Photo: APP
In this photo, ex-PM Imran Khan is seen unveiling the plaque for groundbreaking of the Rawalpindi Ring Road project on March 19, 2022. Photo: APP

ISLAMABAD: A de novo inquiry into the Rawalpindi Ring Road project exonerated former commissioner Capt (R) Muhamamd Mahmood from all charges and found that following the direct intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office during Imran Khan’s tenure Mahmood’s predecessor Gulzar Shah manufactured an “illegal and mala fide report”.

The inquiry recommended the revival of the R3 project after meeting all codal formalities, besides suggesting disciplinary proceedings against Gulzar Shah and the then chief secretary Jawwad Rafique Malik. Malik in his statement before the inquiry admitted that the TORs of the fact finding inquiry conducted by Gulzar Shah were not framed by the Punjab government but were conveyed to the Rawalpindi commissioner by the PM office.

Malik added, “The removal of Capt Mehmood was also done as a result of the scrutiny at the level of the PM office.” Malik admitted that the fact finding report, prepared by Gulzar Shah, should have been examined by the relevant provincial government agencies but it was not done.

After the dissenting notes of two members of the inquiry committee from what Gulzar Shah had concluded, the former chied secretary said a fresh independent inquiry committee comprising of senior officers of provincial government could have been constituted but it was not done.

The de novo inquiry, ordered by the Establishment Division in April this year, and conducted by Civil Service Academy DG Omar Rasul quoted Dr Salman Shah, the chairman of Project Review Committee of the PPP (public -private partnership) Board of Punjab government, as lamenting, “unfortunately the very viable PPP project that was critical to the development of Punjab and Rawalpindi Division, that would have generated trillions of rupee of economic activities was detailed due to unverified conjectures.”

The latest inquiry recommended the exoneration of Capt (retd) Muhammad Mehmood, ex-commissioner Rawalpindi, from all the charges levelled against him. According to the inquiry report, not a single charge has been proved against the officer. The inquiry report advised the competent authority to officially acknowledge the steadfastness, perseverance and resolve of the officer in the face of extraordinary obstacles and adverse circumstances artificially manufactured against him.

The report also recommended disciplinary proceedings against Gulzar Shah for manufacturing an “illegal and mala fide report” and the legality of procedures followed and approvals undertaken for the 2021 alignment of R3 project. The report said that inquiry by Shah was mala fide and illegal, with the defined and pre-conceived motives of implicating Mehmood.

The report also saw criminality on part of Shah for threatening and forcing subordinate officers to sign “cooked up reports” and complaints devoid of any cause of action or facts.

The inquiry report also recommended disciplinary proceedings against the then chief secretary Jawwad Raique Malik for his negligence, oversight and conduct unbecoming of an officer and not being worthy of holding the office of the stature of chief secretary Punjab.

The report said that appreciation must be accorded to officers who stood up for fairness and truth in-spite of immense pressure exerted otherwise and maintained their integrity, dignity and composure against all odds. These officers included Capt (retd) Anwar ul Haq, the then DC Rawalpindi; Jehangir Ahmad, the then ex-ADC Rawalpindi; Ms Ammara Khan, the then DG RDA; Ali Annan Qamar, the then DC Attock; Waseem Ali Tabish, the then land acquisition collector RDA and Dr Farrukh Naveed, the then CEO PPP Authority.

It is also recommended by the inquiry report that a third party validation may be conducted through an independent and credible engineering consulting team under the auspices of the Punjab Planning and Development Board chairman and Planning Commission of Pakistan deputy chairman to determine the optimal route for Rawalpindi Ring Road Economic Corridor Project, considering but not limiting to all past options.

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