BRT, Malam Jabba references are ready, says NAB Chief

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal on Monday said that the accountability watchdog has prepared references against alleged malfeasance in Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project and Malam Jabba forest land scam.
Addressing a ceremony organised to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day, the anti-corruption chairman asserted that the government has never interfered in the internal matters of the bureau as often claimed by the opposition leaders.
“References in the BRT and Malam Jabba scandal are ready  the direction of the wind is about to shift  keep an eye on the events going to happen in the next few weeks,” he said.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government led by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has failed to complete the metro bus project and has missed at least six deadlines in this regard.
On November 27, KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai said that the project would be completed in 2020 and people would start getting its benefits from next year.
He claimed that 87 per cent work on the mega project had been completed and added that 30 stations had been finalised, while work on the remaining 10 stations was underway.
Earlier, the minister had said the project would be finished by December this year, but reports claimed that the flagship project of the PTI government was unlikely to be completed in December, citing completion of only 16 stations out of over 40.
According to reports, three bus depots made for Peshawar BRT were also under construction. “Even 10 per cent work has not been done on the Haytabad bus depot. No work has been done on the route from Hayatabad to Karkhano Market,” they claimed. According to
the additional chief secretary, only one per cent work had been conducted in the past six months on the project whereas the secretary was also quoted as saying that the project would not be completed within the expected time.
Later on December 6, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to launch a probe into Peshawar BRT project and submit a report to the court within 45 days so that appropriate action could be taken.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth, ruled this after hearing multiple petitions filed by the residents. In its order, the court called the PTI government “visionless” for concentrating the money loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in just one project. The verdict said the government took up the project without any “feasibility study” to determine its economic, financial and technical viability.
The cost of the transport corridor was also increased from Rs49.453 billion in 2017 to Rs66.437 billion in 2018, of which Rs53.320 was take in the form of a loan from the ADB. The project was to be completed in six months, due to a political announcement by the provincial government.
This lead to the project being designed in haste and created many errors, Justice Seth wrote. In addition, the “per kilometre cost of the BRT is Rs2.427 billion, which is exorbitantly high.” The court also observed that senior officers of the provincial government, namely the additional chief secretary and the commissioner of the Peshawar division were enjoying hefty allowances despite having non-managerial roles.
“The PC-1 contains lavish salaries for non-project staff like additional chief secretary and principal secretary to the chief minister, who do not even have direct roles in the bus project,” the order read. Even the consultants pocketed hefty salaries, which the court called a “sheer waste of government’s money”.
Meanwhile, The National Accountability Bureau on Monday filed another reference in the fake bank accounts case in the NAB court. According to the NAB, the reference was lodged against alleged embezzlement in the Sindh Bank funds worth billions of rupees.
More than 20 accused, including Bilal Shaikh, Tariq Ahsan and others have been named in the reference over accusations of awarding loan of worth Rs.29 billion to OMNI group.
According to the reference, Rs.25bn out of Rs29bn still have to be repaid. A loan of Rs1.184bn was granted to OMNI group via fake companies.
The anti-graft watchdog is conducting investigations in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the fake accounts case wherein it forwarded the joint investigation team (JIT) report with directions to investigate and file references.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, his aunt Faryal Talpur, former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah, provincial minister Anwar Siyal and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz are among as many as 172 accused in the fake accounts case.
The former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur are currently in the jail on judicial remand, while PPP stalwart’s close aides Hussain Lawai and Anwar Majeed  are also in judicial custody.