Railways land allotment case: NAB summons 3 retired generals
ISLAMABAD, Oct 31: The National Accountability Bureau issued summons on Wednesday to three retired generals to record their statements in a case related to alleged fraudulent allotment of 141 kanals of Pakistan Railways land to a golf club in Lahore, reportedly causing a loss of over Rs10 billion to the national exchequer.
The case is being discussed or investigated at different levels since 2007, but it is for the first time that the generals have been summoned by an investigating agency.
The summons have been issued to Lt-Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi, Lt-Gen (retd) Saeeduz Zafar and Maj-Gen (retd) Hassan Butt.
“We have summoned three retired army generals who have to appear before an investigation team of the bureau on Thursday,” NAB spokesman Zafar Iqbal told Dawn.
He said the three were accused of illegally allotting railways property to the management of Royal Palm Golf Club at a discounted rate.
He said a new agreement had been signed in September this year between Pakistan Railways and the club’s management on the directives of NAB under which an additional amount of Rs16 billion was being paid to the PR.
But the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly in its meeting on Sept 14 called for the cancellation of the controversial agreement. It recommended a fresh bidding for the land and also called for strict disciplinary action against the former bosses of the railways, including the three retired generals, who had endorsed the agreement.
On a suo motu notice, the Supreme Court completed hearing on the case in March last year, but it has yet to issue a judgment.
When asked what NAB investigators will do when the three generals will appear before them on Thursday, the spokesman said:
“The NAB team will record their statements and ask certain questions in the light of allegations levelled against them.”
He said questionnaires might be given to the generals for their comprehensive replies.
Mr Iqbal said NAB had almost settled financial liabilities and started the process of fixing criminal liabilities. “They (the people involved) can be civil bureaucrats and retired military generals,” he said.
A comprehensive report issued by the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Railways a few months ago on the allotment of land for setting up Royal Palm Golf and Country Club in Lahore reveals a number of financial and administrative irregularities and recommends prosecution of all members of PR’s executive committee.
On the committee’s directives, the Federal Investigation Agency started the investigation, but later the case was referred to NAB.
The special committee’s report said the land had been allotted at a nominal price, causing a huge loss to the exchequer because the land utilisation charge was reduced from Rs52.43 per square yard to only Rs4.
The report said construction of a hotel was not mentioned in the terms of reference (TOR) completed on April 20, 2001.
“There was no mention of construction of a hotel in TOR evaluation form filled between April 17 and April 20, 2001, and on the basis of this evaluation the land was awarded to the lessee as the executive committee’s approval was given on the same date,” the report said.
The NAB has arrested PRs’ General Manager (Maintenance & Services) Naeem Malik and Additional General Manager (Mechanical) Mian Ahsan Mahmood in another case for allegedly playing a key role in the purchase of spare parts worth $15.6 million for 69 Chinese locomotives.