NAB denies allegations levelled by Punjab govt over Cheema’s arrest
Cheema’s arrest ‘injustice with a dutiful and hard working officer’, Punjab govt spokesman says
LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday arrested Lahore Development Authority (LDA) former director general Ahad Cheema in relation to the Ashiana Housing Scheme corruption scandal.
Cheema, who was taken into custody by the anti-graft watchdog from the office of Punjab Power Company in Gulberg, faces charges of illegally allotting land for the housing scheme in Lahore.
The arrest came after Cheema failed to appear before the bureau despite several notices. The former LDA director general, who is currently the chief executive officer of the Punjab Thermal Power Ltd, will now be presented before an accountability court for judicial remand.
NAB DENIES ALLEGATIONS LEVELLED BY PUNJAB GOVT OVER CHEEMA’s ARREST:
In a statement after the Punjab government labelled Cheema’s arrest “injustice with a dutiful and hard working officer”, NAB revealing the grounds for the arrest stated that the enquiry conducted by the bureau so far produced sufficient evidence to prove LDA ex-DG’s involvement in the scam.
Stating further the details that led to Cheema’s arrest, the bureau in its official press release said that the Punjab Land Development Co assigned the Ashiana Housing Scheme project to LDA, where Cheema as its DG misused his authority and received illegal gratification in the form of 32 kanals of land valuing approximately Rs30 million from the owners of Paragon City. The accused also awarded the contract for the project to Lahore Casa Developers, that was ineligible for the contract.
The document further stated that Cheema was given a chance to explain the allegations revealed in the probe but he failed to submit any plausible reply and remained absent from the proceedings despite being served two notices, and so, his arrest was “necessary to recover the corruption money and concluding the investigation in accordance with the law”.
Earlier in the day, reacting to the arrest, Punjab government spokesperson Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan had said that the arrest was “beyond NAB’s power”.
“There are hundreds of people who did not appear before the bureau upon issuance of summoning orders and still were not arrested,” he had said while adding that the administrative machinery in Punjab was perturbed over the arrest of such a senior government official in deviation of rules.
He had maintained that Cheema’s arrest was “injustice with a dutiful and hard working officer”, and that public matters could be affected due to the unrest in the government machinery.
It may be noted that the bureau has been conducting an inquiry against the officials of the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC), Lahore Casa Developers, Lahore Development Authority and others. The Punjab government had also formed its special committee regarding the allegations of corruption levelled against the Ashiana Housing Scheme. The committee had briefed Punjab chief minister (CM) Shehbaz Sharif on the project who appeared before the bureau in January.
The aim of the Ashiana housing scheme – an initiative of the Punjab government, was to provide economical and adequate residential facilities to the people with low-incomes and the government had invested Rs2 billion while acquiring 672 kanals of land in the Muloani Harlan area near Darbar Baba Noor Shah.