Home Global Village Contractor Ashiyana Housing Scheme, Shahid Shafiq, handed over to NAB

Contractor Ashiyana Housing Scheme, Shahid Shafiq, handed over to NAB

Shahid Shafiq

Farah Adeed |

In a fresh development a local court in Lahore handed over the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bismillah Engineering, a private construction company, to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on a one-day physical remand.  Shafiq was arrested on the testimony of former director general (DG) LDA Ahad Khan Cheema. Shafiq’s company was also a part of the mega corruption scandal being probed by the NAB.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the NAB rejected ‘baseless’ allegations leveled by the Punjab Government against his organization. He also shared details of Shahid Shafiq and his company Bismillah Engineering.

In 2015, Ahad Cheema awarded a contract to Shafiq’s C-4 company that was not eligible to receive the contract, said the NAB spokesperson. A C-4 company can receive, he clarified, contracts up to 150 million rupees. The spokesperson also pointed out that the former LDA director general caused a loss of 455 million rupees to the national exchequer.

The NAB’s crackdown before the general elections in the country and particularly in Punjab is an alarming situation for the ruling party. Punjab’s Chief Minister is known for his control over the Punjab police and bureaucracy that helps him in managing to win elections.

Shafiq’s Bismillah Engineering owned 90% shares whereas, Sparco Construction Company and China First Metallurgical were able to get 10%. A joint venture of three companies was able to attain the contract back in 2015, explained the spokesperson.

He further stated that 61,000 citizens had filed requests for the Ashiana Housing Scheme and paid 60 million rupees in processing fees. But the cost of the project had increased, pointed out the spokesperson, due to a delay.

While briefing about Ahad Cheema the spokesperson said that he (Cheema) had also obtained a 32-Kanal piece of land in Lahore Cantonment, registered in the name of his cousin and siblings Ahmed Cheema and Sadia Mansoor.

Read more: Bureaucrats united against NAB over Ahad Cheema’s corruption charges

Ahad Cheema’s Arrest

Ahad Cheema, a grade-20 bureaucrat, ex-director general of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), and currently serving as CEO of Quaid-i-Azam Thermal Power Company (QATPC), was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for alleged corruption in Ashiana Housing Scheme.

Cheema was arrested after he failed to appear before the NAB to explain his position. He remained absent from appearing before the NAB despite several notices.

Ahsan further said that the Punjab government strike is essentially a “revolt against the state”. He reminded journalists that it was the second time in the history of Pakistan where bureaucrats have gone on a strike.

An accountability court gave Ahad Cheema into the custody of the NAB for an eleven-day physical remand. Two days after Cheema’s arrest the anti-graft watchdog claimed to have obtained some important record of Ahad Cheema in the Ashiana Housing Scheme scandal. There may be some other arrests as well, mentioned the watchdog.

Read more: Bureaucratic corruption: Ahad Cheema arrested by NAB

Punjab Government’s response

Punjab government had earlier rejected all the allegations against Ahad Cheema. Punjab’s Law Minister Rana Sanaullah held a press conference and explicitly accused the NAB of bypassing all rules and regulation to arrest “an honest officer”. “An inquiry is an initiative which then translates into a reference that is sent to a board for approval and after approval a reference is filed. And through a court order, an arrest warrant is obtained”, he explained.

Moreover, while defending Cheema, the Law Minister further said that “…but Cheema was unceremoniously arrested from his office during inquiry stage. All the allegations of embezzlement of Rs. 14 billion, acquisition of land and corruption in Qauid-a-Azam Solar Power Project are unfounded and baseless”.

Shafiq’s Bismillah Engineering owned 90% shares whereas, Sparco Construction Company and China First Metallurgical were able to get 10%. A joint venture of three companies was able to attain the contract back in 2015, explained the spokesperson.

He further termed Cheema’s arrest an illegal activity done by the NAB and assured bureaucrats that there will be no injustice. He said “if the dejected officers refuse to work how the provincial government can function? We assure them that such illegal activities of NAB will be condemned”.

The Punjab cabinet has also labeled Cheema’s arrest as “discriminatory and partial treatment”, and expressed deep concerns.

Read more: Close to the Dead End, Sharifs Out to blow the system

Lockdown by PAS officers

Meanwhile, on Friday Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) officers met the Chief Minister Punjab and demanded Cheema’s release. They also made it clear that if Cheema’s arrest was necessary then the NAB should have followed the proper way. Bureaucrats across the Punjab also submitted a charter of demands to the Punjab government, urging the formation of a judicial-like tribunal for their constitutional protection.

The Bureaucrats protested against the arrest of their colleague and observed a complete lockdown of offices at the Punjab Secretariat on Friday.

Opposition’s Reaction

Opposition parties have grilled the Punjab government for fueling the matter and implicitly supporting bureaucrats to protest against the NAB. Right after the arrest of Ahad Cheema Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan bashed the Punjab government for offering favors to their loyalists he condemned the protest staged by the civil servants against the arrest of Ahad Cheema. “Utterly shameful how bureaucracy belonging to PAS (Pakistan Administrative Service) has chosen to protest over accountability and arrest of Cheema, clearly SS’s (Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif) front man”, Khan tweeted.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senior leader Aitzaz Ahsan also lambasted the Punjab Chief minister for being the leader a “leader of thieves”. Ahsan further said that the Punjab government strike is essentially a “revolt against the state”. He reminded journalists that it was the second time in the history of Pakistan where bureaucrats have gone on a strike.

The spokesperson of the NAB rejected ‘baseless’ allegations leveled by the Punjab Government against his organization. He also shared details of Shahid Shafiq and his company Bismillah Engineering.

“The first time it happened was in 1972 when the Punjab police observed a strike”, said Aitzaz Ahsan. He also speculated that Punjab’s civil servants went on strike following the orders of CM Punjab.

Read more: NAB chairman expresses his firm belief in universal accountability

Furthermore, the NAB’s crackdown before the general elections in the country and particularly in Punjab is an alarming situation for the ruling party. Punjab’s Chief Minister is known for his control over the Punjab police and bureaucracy that helps him in managing to win elections. If the NAB expands its circle of accountability and arrests other officers involved in the cases like this one, PML-N will have a tough time in the province of Punjab.

The writer is a political analyst. The views expressed in this article are author’s own. It does not reflect Global Village Space Editorial policy.

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