Ring Road scam and PTI
THE Punjab government has started aligning the Rawalpindi Ring Road afresh.
The decision has been made after Premier Imran Khan took notice of the alleged changes in the alignment of the much-needed Rawalpindi Ring Road project, which not only increased the cost of the project by Rs 25 billion but also allegedly benefited some private housing societies.
As the Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR) project controversy deepens, SAPM Zulfi Bukhari resigned.
Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan is under investigation facing improper use of authority and corruption charges against him. If declared guilty he will have to quit and possibly put behind the bar.
The Rawalpindi Ring Road case has been referred to DG Anti-Corruption Department of Punjab for thorough investigations after two separate fact-finding reports, one from Rawalpindi Commissioner and the other from DC and ADCR Rawalpindi were submitted to the PTI government.
On the other hand, the Punjab provincial government has started work on new alignment of the road. Let see new alignment be ensured free from corruption.
The Chief Secretary Punjab has directed the concerned authorities that alternative proposals along with cost estimates should be submitted to him as soon as possible so that the project could be completed within the same budget. The Rawalpindi Ring Road project hasn’t been stopped.
Importance of this project for the residents of Rawalpindi is crystal clear so there is no point of halting it. The project should be made corruption free and in the public interest rather than entertaining individual interests.
Its PC-1 should be submitted at earliest possible. Director Development Nazia Sadhan, ADCR Capt Qasim Ijaz (R), Azizullah DD RDA and a large number of other government officials concerned also have discussed the project after it caught eye of the media.
In order to improve the economy of the country, special attention will have to be paid to the resources which will not only improve the means of transportation for the residents of twin cities but also increase economic activity.
For this Rawalpindi Ring Road is of great importance which after its completion will ease the traffic congestion in the twin cities and save the time and money of daily commuters between the two cities.
The Rawalpindi Ring Road project is not merely a solution to traffic problem but it will be the foundation of a new city of Rawalpindi which will definitely benefit residents of Rawalpindi city.
A number of senior officials including Rawalpindi’s former commissioner Muhammad Mahmood have been found to be involved in illegally changing the alignment of Rawalpindi’s 65 km long Ring Road project
The fact finding inquiry was undertaken to look into the allegations of illegalities in the change of the alignment of the project and the questions of corruption, rent seeking, and conflict of interest.
Former Commissioner Mahmood, former Land Acquisition Controller Waseem Ali Tabish and former Project Management United (PMU) Deputy Director Abdullah committed incurable illegalities, committed deceit and deception and issued orders without having due authority.
They also committed abuse of public funds to benefit a rent-seeking syndicate including themselves.
The former commissioner in sheer violation of laws and rules created rent seeking benefits for himself and a number of housing projects – Behria Town, Islamabad Co-operative Housing Society( ICHS), Nova City, Capital Smart City, New Airport City/Al Asif Housing, SAS Developers and Blue World.
It has been established that additions of Moorat-Attock Loop and Paswaal Zigzag to the project were made to purely benefit private interests with the backing of influential public officeholders, past and present, and influential bureaucrats. Through lies, deceit and deception this private rent seeking was being portrayed as public necessity.
Behria Town phase 9 without approval of Lay out Plan (LoP) sold 50 thousand Kanals land, Capital Smart City having (LoP) of 7500 Kanals sold 60 thousand Kanals, Nova City without approval sold 30 thousand Kanals land and Islamabad Cooperative Housing Society sold 10 Kanals without approval. Capital Smart City was given interchange on National exchequer.
The build-up of a massive scam driven by the greed of a powerful rent seeking syndicate was busted after Premier Imran Khan took notice of the scandalous shenanigans of the rent seeking syndicate along the Attock loop.
The rent seeking build-up might have sucked up Rs.10s billions towards speculative real estate depriving resource hungry productive sectors and job creating sectors of the twin city economy.
This rent seeking syndicate planned to thwart the premier’s vision of vertical development of cities and emergence of high rise business districts within existing urban centres.
Economic resources which were being diverted to this rent-seeking black hole could significantly improve livability of small cities like Fateh Jang, Attock, Taxila, Gujar Khan, Kotli Sattian and also could lead to urban re-generation of Rawalpindi. The case is now being referred to the NAB and the Establishment Division.
The NAB is being asked to inquire into Rs.2.3 billion spent unlawfully by Ex-Commissioner Muhammad Mahmood on illegal land acquisition for building R 3 centric hype for boosting sales of real-estate connected with him and with powerful public office holders of past and present.
Some housing societies are being investigated for being benami fronts of powerful people.
The bidding process for the project had also been cancelled. Since the alignment emerged illegally no one can ever lawfully regularize it.
So this alignment shall never be taken up again for the incurable illegalities underpinning its emergence.
The RRR was first mega project of the PTI government during last three years which met its scandalous fate amid corruption and mismanagement before taking off.
—The writer, based in Islamabad, is book ambassador, columnist and author of several books.