Ex-generals appear before NAB probe team
ISLAMABAD, Nov 1: Former railways minister and ex-chief of ISI Lt-Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi lost his temper and misbehaved with journalists outside the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) headquarters on Thursday where he and two other retired generals had gone to record their statements in a land fraud case.
The three had been summoned by NAB for their alleged involvement in leasing out 141 acres of railways land in Lahore to a private club in 2001.
When Gen Qazi came out of the NAB headquarters he tried to avoid reporters and TV cameras and just said ‘no comments’ when several thorny questions were asked.
But he lost his temper when asked why he was avoiding the media after having brought the railways to the verge of collapse. “Shut up, …”, he said to a reporter, pushed away the mike and boarded his car.
Lt-Gen (retd) Saeeduz Zafar also tried to avoid talking to reporters but later lashed out at politicians.
“Can politicians be accountable for their deeds?” he said when asked about accountability of political leaders and generals.
He said military generals had been facing a media trial for 11 years.
He advised people to vote for a transgender leader, Almas Bobby, instead of politicians in the next general elections.
The third retired army officer, Maj-Gen Hamid Hassan Butt, managed to leave unnoticed because journalists did not recognise him.
The three recorded their statements separately before NAB investigators and pleaded innocence.
“Each of them sat before the NAB team for more than one and a half hours and recorded his statement,” the bureau’s spokesman Zafar Iqbal said.
“Two civilians — Khursheed Ahmad Khan, former finance member, and Iqbal Samad Khan, ex-general manager (operations), of Pakistan Railways — have also been summoned to NAB headquarters on Monday,” he said.
The spokesman said the investigation being conducted on the directives of the Supreme Court would be completed soon.
The case has been discussed and investigated at different levels since 2007 but it was for the first time that the retired generals appeared before investigators.
The fraudulent land deal reportedly caused a loss of over Rs10 billion to the national exchequer.
Replying to a question, the NAB spokesman said the investigation was in the final stage and the bureau would take a decision on the statements of the three retired generals in a month.
“It is up to the investigators whether they fix criminal liabilities on them or not,” he said.
According to NAB, a new agreement has been signed in September this year between the railways and the management of the club under which an additional Rs16 billion is being paid to the PR.
However, a federal minister who had headed a special committee of parliament and issued its report on the controversial land deal said he believed that the bureau was trying to give a clean chit to the generals in the case.
“In the light of the findings of parliamentary committee, we had recommended that all the property and cars of all the accused, including military generals, should be confiscated and criminal liabilities fixed on them,” he said.
According to reports, the land had been leased out at a nominal price, causing a huge loss to the national exchequer, by reducing the land utilisation charge from Rs52.43 to only Rs4 per square yard.
He said NAB had recently reshaped the agreement between the railways and the management of the golf club under which an additional Rs16 billion would be paid in two to three decades.
The Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the case and completed the hearing in March last year, but is yet to issue a judgment.
On Sept 14, the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly called for cancellation of the lease agreement.